The Power of Atlas

Posted: 10/10/2013

Posted By:  Kelly Nelson, Outreach Director

The timing of the October storm, now being called Atlas, couldn’t have been worse for those in Western SD.  The combination of record amounts of heavy, wet snow and high winds were devastating for cows that were still out on summer pasture and hadn’t developed a winter coat. 

Times of tragedy tend to bring people together.  The agriculture community has united behind ranchers of Western South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska.  People from all across the country have stepped up and offered support for ranchers affected during this difficult time.

Formed on Oct 8, the Facebook page Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid has exploded with over 11,000 likers in just two days!  This Facebook effort along with the efforts of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association have launched a relief fund with the Black Hills area Community Foundation to provide support and assistance to those impacted by the blizzard.  Click here for more information on the fund.

While this tragedy has brought together the agriculture community, the lack of national news media and negative online comments from others has been beyond discouraging and disappointing. 

Here is a small sample of some of the comments being posted online:
Why were so many animals lost when there was so much advanced warning that it was coming?

Ranchers get all k8nds of government aid. Help the people who have bad roofing. No heaters. Many people need more help then ranchers.

Please have smaller herds so shelter is easier to provide.

Do I feel bad for these guys you bet, but they have insurance and government subsidies to help them out. So take your lumps and maybe no new $60,000 pickup this year.

They needed shelter!!! I feel bad for the animals! Everyone knew the storm was coming. Take care of your animals before hand and don't ask for money after they die like this. Horrible shame on you.

These comments were posted in response to a South Dakota news station story, so I can only assume that fellow South Dakotans wrote most of the comments.   It makes me think…how did we get here?  How did we get to the point where our city cousins don’t recognize a tragedy like this? 

There was no way for South Dakota ranch families to know how bad the storm would be or to prepare for it.  Ranch families’ livelihoods depend on a healthy, well-cared for cow herd, so they wouldn’t do anything to knowingly put animals in a dangerous situation.

I also believe that the negative comments were not made by bad people, but from those who don’t understand how ranching and agriculture works.  They do not have a connection to agriculture and do not have the opportunity to experience what we involved in the industry do every day.  I think they should serve as a reminder to us of why we in agriculture have to be proactive in sharing our story. 

Comments like these, while frustrating, serve as a reminder of why I do what I do.  They remind me why agriculture education is so important. We have a lot of work to do, not only with the cleanup after the storm but with sharing our story.  We in agriculture need to let comments like this drive us to continue sharing our story.  


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