Farmers still recovering from Florence

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Pender farmer lost 8,000 chickens, all his feed hay

WILLARD — Months after Hurricane Florence slow-danced her way across Southeastern North Carolina, farmers are experiencing a slow recovery. Many may not fully recover for years to come. Gary Dale’s Pender County farm experienced severe damage. But Dale is grateful it wasn’t worse.

“It has certainly put us behind, work-wise, and we still have repairs,” said Dale, who has been farming since 1980. “But like everyone else we are moving ahead.”

Dale lost 8,000 chickens in his poultry houses.

And the roof was blown off his hay shelter, leaving him and son Matt scrambling to find hay for their cows.

“Anyone who farms knows that their animals must be fed, so when you lose your feed supply, it hurts,” says Dale.

Mark Seitz, Pender Extension coordinator has been working hard to assist farmers affected by the storm. He says the work is on going and will not stop anytime soon.

Seitz said every farmer in Pender was affected by the storm, some worse than others and pasture damage is significant.

“I will be looking for hay for Pender farmers all winter,” he said.

Seitz said fortunately, farmers from across the state have come together to donate hay to farmers in Pender and Duplin counties.

“If we don’t try to help, farmers will have to sell off their cattle early and the industry could become decimated,” he said.

Dale is grateful for the assistance. He says that just one or two bad years of crop or poultry loss can put a farmer out of business permanently.

The Dales recently applied for federal assistance that provides aid to farmers affected by the storm. For now, they are going on with business as usual as much as possible.

For Gary Dale and his son, Matt, farming is a way of life. The Dales have four poultry houses, cattle and hogs.

“I’m very proud to work on the family farm,” says Matt Dale, who came home in 2011 to partner with his father in farming operations.

“It’s a tough occupation,” Gary Dale said. “If it wasn’t for the good Lord, we wouldn’t make it.”

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