Salted with Sharks

Ag Futures: Paul May Fundraiser Brings Community Together

In Agriculture, Community Alert, On and off the Apron on August 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm

By Emily Votruba

Tuesday night’s fundraiser for Paul May, our local beef/lamb/poultry/dairy farmer who has bladder cancer, raised over $21,000, with more coming in, according to one of the event’s main volunteers, Becky Noffsinger. Chef Glen Noffsinger, who did the cooking for the estimated 320 people in attendance, had only 3 pieces of chicken left (he’s a pro!). At least one $5,000 matching offer helped sweeten the pot of donations.

Paul May expressed his gratitude in brief but moving terms as the evening kicked off. “Thank you for helping me,” he said in summation, to loud applause. The crowd joined in a Paul Mayified version of “Old Macdonald Had a Farm.” Much better music then followed, performed by Clearwater and the Trinity Lutheran Praise Band.

Among the many luminaries of agriculture and other walks of life were Mark and Jill Baker, of Baker’s Green Acres, in Marion. They are currently embroiled in a legal battle with the DNR over their heirloom hogs, which the State has labeled an invasive species. Now subject to $700,000 in fines, and more in court fees, Baker is also forbidden to sell any of the hogs. With no court date in sight, Baker has had to kill several of the animals, which he’s now having trouble feeding. “They [the DNR and State] are trying to starve us out,” he said. (Read more about Baker’s problem here.)

The Frankfort–Elberta community is pulling together to help the Mays in other ways, too, to keep their farm and animals alive. As Sharron May wrote on her blog on Wednesday: “All in all 15 people are sharing the chores that Paul did 7 days a week, twice a day before and after working another job. Unlike the good old days (before subsidies, centralization and mega-farms), the income from farming alone can no longer support a family or send multiple kids to college as it once did.” You can read more about the nitty gritty of what it takes to fill in for one hardworking farmer here.

People turned out to show how much they appreciate Paul as a friend and his service to his community: his pioneering work to provide healthy, safe, sustainable food that gives back to the land more than it takes. It’s brave and difficult and often lonely work in the current climate of industrial food production. On Tuesday night, it was clear that Paul is not alone. Ψ

Paul May Fundraiser 2 Paul May Fundraiser 1

  1. Thank you for the lovely article, Emily. The paradox of Paul’s Bladder Cancer diagnosis is that so far it’s has been the worst and best thing that has ever happened to us. The funds raised surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations. With mixed feelings of relief, gratitude and embarrassment we get to join Izzy Stapleton, Zoe Bone and other lucky recipients of our community’s amazing love and support. We are optimistic about bouncing back in 2014. And if having a reason to live adds to longevity then Paul is going to need a very long life to get through the long list of people to thank!

    Conversely, Mark Baker, a daring individual working to establish food freedom. is not feeling the love. We are honored to be mentioned in the same breath. Ironically we just read an Associated Press article in the Thursday Record Eagle celebrating a Lansing area farmer who is raising the same breed of pig that Baker is being persecuted and prosecuted for. Unlike the Record Eagle, thank you for bringing attention to this precedent setting issue. We encourage anyone who cared enough about us to care about the Bakers, too.

  2. Tuesday was indeed magic. Thank you to all the kitchen volunteers that helped Glenn and I pull it off: Mike & Anna, Ethel, Chuck & Maudie, Paul, Kate, Norm, DeAnn, anyone I forgot in the blur, and the hordes that offered but were turned away because we had plenty of help. It was an honor to take part.

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