In 1986, after a bone-dry summer, Matthew and Chad Bowman’s grandfather found himself without enough hay to feed his cattle at his Granite Falls, N.C., farm.
Many farms in western North Carolina were experiencing the same problem and had to sell much of their herd, Chad Bowman said. Luckily for the Bowmans, farms out West sent bales of hay to their farm and others. With that donation, the Bowmans kept eight of their 35 core cattle, saving the farm from further hardship, said J.B. Bowman, Matthew and Chad’s father.
All three remaining Bowman men continue to run Rock Creek Grain and Cattle over 30 years later and still remember the charity of their fellow farmers. This year, when two hurricanes rolled through eastern North Carolina, they saw a chance to help farms there that were devastated by natural disaster, Chad Bowman said.
“We saw it as an opportunity to return the favor,” he said. “You don’t forget stuff like that.”
This month, as winter began and cattle’s natural food sources like grass wilted away, the Bowmans sent 40 bales of hay to farms in the east.
When Matt Bowman watched videos of the devastation from the hurricanes, it hit home, he said.
“I saw entire pastures washed away,” Matt Bowman said. “You start thinking about your own farm and what that would be like.”
Immediately, he starting thinking about how his family could help, and as they harvested their hay this year, the Bowmans realized they would be left with about 40 extra bales.
Matt Bowman realized this was their chance, so they reached out to find out how to get it to those who needed it. The agriculture community in the state is so tight-knit, there wasn’t a second thought, he said.
“We take care of each other,” he said.
The N.C. Farm Bureau connected them to the N.C. Forest Service, which already had a truck hauling equipment up to this area and would be driving empty back to eastern North Carolina.
The Bowmans loaded their bales on that truck and sent them Down East — and that’s all they’ll take credit for.
“We just furnished the hay,” Chad Bowman said. “Everyone else did all the work.”
The family didn’t do it for the thanks, Chad Bowman said, but because they know what a loss of hay can do to a farm.
“You end up losing your momma cows, which is how you make your living,” he said.
It takes years to rebuild a farm’s core herd, J.B. Bowman said.
“You have to sell your livestock, and that’s hard to come back from,” he said.
He hopes the bales they provided will be enough to save some farms’ core herd so they can rebuild next season.