Minnesota agriculture company launches relief effort for farmers in Ukraine
It’s a casualty of the Ukraine war you may have never seen.
“It is already their second season, when the farmers try to survive,” says Kateryna Konashchuk, a project manager for Farmerhood who was visiting Minnesota from her home base in Kyiv. “In terms of shelling, in terms of destroyed machinery, destroyed buildings.”
Bomb craters and missiles in farm fields.
Bullet-riddled tractors, storage buildings, and crops destroyed.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Ukrainian farmers have suffered $3.9 billion in losses since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022.
The UN study says agricultural enterprises reported a nine-percent decrease in the size of cultivated areas, compared to the same time the previous year.
It notes that 12% of those enterprises reported part of their land is potentially contaminated by unexploded ordinances.
“Farming is a difficult enough way of making a living,” declares Dave Gebhardt, the General Manager of EarthDaily Agro, a Maple Grove farm analytics company. “You can imagine what it’s like in a war-torn country like Ukraine.”
Gebhardt, grew up on a southern Minnesota farm — his family has been farming in the Austin area for five generations.
Recently, he and his stuff launched ‘Farmerhood’ — a fund-raising initiative to help Ukrainian farmers impacted by the war.
“When there’s a crisis, when there’s an emergency in agriculture or in the farming community, the people rise up and they help,” Gebhardt says. “Rather than taking things we have here in the U.S., you know seed or fertilizer, and taking it there, it’s really sourcing it and making it available there more locally.”
Their fundraising goal: $1 million — enough to help 200 farmers with supplies.
EarthDaily Agro staffers shared with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS a Zoom call with Danylo Andrienko, one of the first farmers to receive aid.
“We are in the agriculture business and as farmers, we are trying to provide for not only ourselves, but also developing countries,” he said. “We are united, and if there’s a possibility of support with anything, it is of great, great help.”
Gebhardt says Farmerhood has raised about $300,000 with the help of Minnesota-based corporate sponsors.
The plan is for each farm to receive about $10,000 in supplies and equipment.
The group says it’s already received 300 requests for help from farmers in Ukraine.
Right now, it’s Konashchuk’s job to coordinate funding to Ukrainian farm suppliers who can provide seed, fertilizer, and equipment to growers.
She says there’s a thorough vetting process, to ensure would-be recipients have been genuinely impacted by the war.
The farmers applying for help must have relatively small operations — 1,200 acres or less.
There’s an audit of the property and location, and applicants must be running currently operating farms, without debts or any issues with criminal activity.
“For us, it is extremely important to help those who’ve suffered the most,” Konashchuk, who is a project manager for Farmerhood, says. “We check that these farms are located in the regions that are occupied or in a 50-kilometer zone, close to an occupied area and the war zone.”
For her, this job is personal.
Her husband is a member of the Ukrainian artillery in the Donbas region, and her 20-year-old daughter remains in the country.
Konashchuk says she’ll be staying for a short time longer in Minnesota before she heads back to Ukraine.
But her work on behalf of farmers there will continue.
“I would like to show their strength of unity. How much can we all work together, help those who suffer the most,” Konashchuk notes. “I really appreciate the support of Minnesota and the Twin Cities. The citizens are amazing. I’m really impressed by the fifty shades of green you have. Your family community is great.”
You can find out more about Farmerhood here: https://www.farmerhood.org/index.php/en/