Farmers to get help from neighbors Collector planning fund-raiser to ease pain of drought

November 18, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

An Eldersburg sports collector hopes to fill the barns of drought-stricken farmers with hay bales by Christmas.

In launching Carroll County Farm Aid, Robert G. Urban knows he might not draw nationally known entertainers to Carrolltown Center on Dec. 20, but he promises local celebrities, popular sports figures and a lively auction.

Proceeds will be used to buy livestock feed to replace the supplies destroyed by what farmers say has been the driest growing season in the county in 30 years. Urban is planning a hay giveaway Christmas Eve on the parking lot of the Liberty Road mall.

"This is not charity, but neighbor helping neighbor through a rough time," he said. "Our farmers are proud people with a long history of hardship and hard work. They do not seek or want charity. It is up to us, their neighbors, to step forward and lend a helping hand."

Urban trades everything from baseball cards to uniforms as "Mr. Memorabilia." He made national news when he organized the sale of Cal Ripken Jr.'s home run ball from his record-tying game in 1995. The ball sold for nearly $50,000.

"I really applaud his efforts," said Kelly Hereth, executive director of the Carroll County Farm Service Agency. "Anybody who can get $50,000 for a piece of rawhide can pull this off."

The daylong event will include celebrity autograph signings, raffles and auctions of items donated by area merchants. Urban, who has been in the memorabilia business for 10 years, estimates he can raise as much as $50,000.

"We need to do this fast so we can get armers help immediately," he said.

Crop losses in Carroll include nearly 80 percent of the feed corn, according to the Maryland Farm Bureau. Farmers have no winter feed for their herds and no credit to buy it.

"Farm families have exhausted supplies and now find themselves without winter feed for their animals," said C. William Knill, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau.

Knill estimates that more than 1,000 farmers in Carroll and Frederick have not been able to secure recovery loans. He wrote U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman last week asking him to release to Maryland a portion of the $30 million disaster relief fund for general emergencies. It was recently used for flood victims in South Dakota.

"Folks are really trying desperately to hang onto their herds," said Hereth. "They won't be reluctant to take help, especially help that does not ask for eligibility requirements. It's no strings attached."

Giving away hay instead of cash will show donors where their money is going, Hereth said. A hay lift in Frederick has been extremely successful, supplying at least 60 farmers in that county with feed, much of it donated from Southern Maryland.

Urban has put into motion the wheels that could transport much-needed hay to the county by Christmas. He is printing promotional fliers and donating $2,000 worth of merchandise, including a football helmet signed by legendary Baltimore Colts.

Five-dollar raffle tickets go on sale this week for the car that the Oriole bird drove around Memorial Stadium during the 1983 World Series. The winner could drive the vehicle around the mall, but may have a little difficulty getting away.

"It is actually a go-cart with a bright orange Corvette body," said Urban.

Ideas for raising money range from the serious bidding at both silent and live auctions to a whimsical adopt-a-cow project. For $25, buyers would receive a bovine photo, complete with its name and barn address. Urban is looking for a photographer to donate the photo shoots. He will name any nameless creatures.

He also needs about 25 volunteers to help organize and run the event. He would like to hear from farmers who need the hay lift. The mall management is making indoor space available for the event and has offered its parking lot -- spacious enough for many tractor-trailers -- for the hay lift, tentatively set for Dec. 24.

"We have no overhead at all, so all the profits will go directly to farmers," Urban said.

He has scheduled a volunteers meeting for 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mr. Memorabilia Shop in the mall.

"Everybody in Carroll County should be concerned about the farmers' situation," Urban said. "Farms are part of the environment that we want to keep for our children."

Information: 800-230-4312.

Pub Date: 11/18/97

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