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June 9, 2010

Helping a neighbor

Nearly 100 volunteers turn out to help a hog farmer clean up the damage from Sunday’s tornado

ROCKFIELD — When Bill Baber needed help after a tornado destroyed most of his hog farm in northern Carroll County, he got it.

Nearly 100 friends, neighbors and fellow farmers have come to his aid in the days since tornadoes struck White, Carroll, Cass and Miami counties during the wee hours of Sunday.

Just before partaking of a lunch provided to the volunteers by The Andersons on Tuesday, Baber called the cleanup effort “humbling and overwhelming.”

The day before, some 60 people had turned out to help in loading 23 semis with sows headed for their new home in Illinois. Another 35 or so showed up on Tuesday to clear sheet metal, lumber and other debris from fields up to six miles to the east of the farm, which is on Carroll County Road 700 North just west of Ind. 29.

The Andersons provided a crew of workers on Tuesday. Subway and Indiana Packers have also provided lunches during the recovery effort.

On Sunday morning, Baber began calling people to help in weaning about 1,800 pigs from their mothers so the little ones could be taken to other farms. Baber said those farm operators were awake at 4 a.m. powerwashing their facilities to get ready for the new arrivals.

Fellow farmers Maurice Robeson and Eric Johnson both took time from their regular duties to help out. They shared their thoughts on the outpouring of support.

“It’s tremendous,” said Robeson, who at 7 p.m. Sunday sent out a message through the Carroll County Ag Association asking for help on Monday morning.

“It’s an amazing community effort with the number of people that have showed up and the equipment that they brought,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty impressive the amount of work that they’ve gotten done.”

In his many years of farming, Robeson said, he had never heard of 2,800 sows being moved in that short a period of time.

Workers created large piles of sheet metal that had to be cleared from the farm fields before harvest to prevent damage to farm equipment. Another pile turned lumber and other burnables to ash.

Baber plans on recycling the metal.

Baber learned of the damage about 1:45 a.m. Sunday. He showed up to the farm to get only glimpses of the destruction by use of flashlights. Daylight revealed the extent of the devastation.

“It was like it had been attacked,” Baber recalled.

The tornado destroyed at least three buildings, which collapsed on top of the steel stalls holding the hogs.

Workers had to remove debris to get to the hogs. They had to crawl on their hands and knees to open the gates to let the animals out.

“We got a lot of people with sore knees after that job,” Robeson joked.

Despite the violent collapse of the buildings, no sows were killed or even  injured. Robeson said the metal stalls saved the animals’

lives by keeping the walls and roof from crushing them.

Storms and fires are a livestock owner’s worst nightmare, volunteer Deb Bradfield said.

“Whenever we hear somebody has had this kind of disaster, we’re always ready to help in any way,” she said.

Baber says he plans to rebuild the facility and start over with new pigs.

• Kevin Lilly is news editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or


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