View the video here –> NC Hurricane Florence Relief

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Mark Aldridge, Garrett Pratt, and Mike Swartz pause for a photo in the woods on Dean Lanier’s farm near Burgaw, NC

Although Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina coast six months ago, much work still needs to be done. Hurricane Florence slowed and lost strength just off the coast of North Carolina, making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, and dumped nearly 36 inches of rain, causing massive flooding on the coast and more than 30 miles inland.
The Fellowship of Christian Farmers, International, with outstanding phone work by Executive Director Dennis Schlagel and excellent leg work by Disaster Relief Coordinator Melvin Bell, sent a relief team down to Burgaw, North Carolina, about 30 miles inland from Wilmington, NC.

Johnnie Mercer’s Pier

The team was led by Mike Swartz, Manager, Illinois Farm Bureau, McLean County. We stayed in a new bunkhouse used for migrant farm workers on a blueberry farm. On Saturday, February 23, we drove 600 miles, making Sunday’s drive only 300 miles, giving us time to drive down to Wrightsville Beach to see the ocean.

Dean Lanier holding a large limb while Mike and Mark cut it into managable pieces

Monday morning brought clear weather, and much warmer than our Central Illinois homeland. Farmer Dean Lanier manned an excavator, making short work of some huge trees. Much of it needed cutting, though, and Mike and Mark did most of the chainsaw work, while Jerry, Homer, and Garrett piled up branches for Dean to grab with “the Machine.”

Mike making big logs into smaller logs

Fence lines running through wooded areas were crushed by falling trees. The FCFI work crew cleared these fence lines and reattached wires, reestablishing the fence line. Hard work for the crew, much easier for me, the media guy.

Farm hand Nelson loading branches onto a trailer, and then off to the burn pile.

Wednesday brought us to Buron Lanier’s Piney Woods Farm on the other side of Burgaw. Dean and Buron are good friends, no relation. The landscape changed significantly, as we found ourself in a beautiful pine grove with cattle graving under the majestic pines. Jerry manned the blue Ford tractor pulling a dump trailer. Farm hand Nelson picked large logs and piles of branches and loaded the dump trailer. Homer handled the back hoe, pushing the dumped loads onto the burn pile.

We had 3 massive burn piles going amongst the pine groves.

A few logs were saved and harvested for timber, but most were not usable and burned on site. Had Hurricane Florence hit landfall with the strength of Hurricane Michael, which made landfall near Panama City, Florida as a high Category 4 hurricane, this pine grove would’ve been decimated. Much of the damage from Hurricane Florence was from flooding, but many of these pines were knocked down. Buron Lanier would not have been able to manage this disaster without the help of the FCFI crew.

The crew from left to right: Mike Swartz, McLean County, Illinois Farm Bureau Manager, Buron Lanier, cattle farmer and land owner at Piney Woods Farm, Homer Bozarth, Mark Aldridge, Garrett Pratt, Jerry Aldridge, and Jerry Druhan, FCFI Media Director

Much work remains for those who suffered losses from Hurricane Florence, even six months after the storm. It has been difficult assembling volunteer teams to help our fellow farmers recover. If you are interested in joining one of these teams, contact the Fellowship of Christian Farmers, International at 309-530-7004, or click volunteer! We need skilled workers who can use a chainsaw, operate heave equipment, and also energetic helpers who can mend fences and pick up branches. It is most rewarding to help our brothers and sisters recover from disasters, and the appreciation shown to us has blessed us. If you are not able to volunteer on a work trip, you may still participate by donating here. Thank you for your support!