Taking leadership in the wildfire relief effort in northwestern Oklahoma came naturally to Tom Fanning. “This is my home,” he says. “The people fighting the fires to save our homes are our neighbors, friends and customers.”
Fanning, who is the northwest district vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, got straight to work with helping farmers find relief when wildfires scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in northwestern Oklahoma in spring 2017.
Fanning raises cattle with his family and manages Buffalo Feeders, a 30,000-head feed yard in Buffalo.
“I got a call from someone wanting to donate hay the first day of the fire,” he says. “We had an amazing number of semitrailer loads coming from as far away as Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, and offers of hay from New York and Maryland.”
Fanning has managed cattle feed yards for the last 25 years, starting with Cargill in the Texas Panhandle and later returning home in 2001 to manage Buffalo Feeders.
“I understand how many pounds of feed cattle need to eat each day, and a lot of these displaced cattle will need feed until this fall,” he says. “I’ve mostly been helping get people to the right places, getting the hay where it needs to be – just doing the right things.”
Also a former Army Ranger, his agribusiness and military experience prepared him to lead in this time of great strain, including helping communicate the impacts of wildfires to farm lenders and government relief agencies.
Fanning also offers leadership excellence in other cattle industry roles, says Michael Kelsey, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s executive vice president. “Besides being the Cattlemen’s on-the-ground lead in the northwestern fire complex, Tom serves as the current chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Council, where he has done a wonderful job,” Kelsey says.