Dubois family responds to call for hurricane aid

Bonnie Stoddard / for Farm & Ranch
Bales of hay are loaded aboard a semitruck at Larsen Hay Terminal in Dubois. When Hurricane Harvey stuck Texas ranchers in August, the eastern Idaho hay supplier mobilized its Florida resources to bring aid to Texas.

Bonnie Stoddard / for Farm & Ranch
Richard Larsen and his son and business partner Chad Larsen stand beside a load of hay at Larsen Hay Terminal in Dubois.

DUBOIS — Local hay-business family, Richard Larsen and son, Chad, didn’t hesitate with their hay donation, when the report came out that there was a dire need for livestock feed after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in August.

The Associated Press reported in September that thousands of cattle were feared lost in the hurricane with losses to ranchers that could reach into the tens of millions of dollars.

The counties that sustained damage when Harvey first came ashore Aug. 25 were home to 1.2 million head of cattle, representing one-fourth of all beef cattle in Texas, the nation’s largest beef producer, the AP reported. Sales of beef cattle and calves in the state averaged $10.7 billion annually between 2011 and 2014, according to the Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service and Agri-Life Research.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller told CNN in September that his agency had no firm estimate on the number of cattle lost during the storm and floods that followed. But he estimated that crops worth $200 million — including hay for cattle feed — were destroyed, and he expected that number to climb.

Richard Larsen, who with his family — wife, Peggy, and their son and his wife, Jessica — owns and operates Larsen Hay Terminal in Dubois. He well understands the struggles of the farming and the livestock industries. He works closely with brother Blaine Larsen, whose Larsen Farms is one of eastern Idaho’s largest potato-growing operations.

When hearing of the urgent call for a convoy of hay to be trucked into the Houston area, his thoughts were of those families in need. Consequently, the Larsen family was among the first to answer this urgent request.

But the response didn’t come from the Larsens’ Idaho operations. In addition to the Dubois facility, the Larsen family owns a hay operation in Ocala, Fla. Richard Larsen had one of his semitractor-trailers loaded with 35 tons of alfalfa hay from the Florida hay shed and sent it to Houston, arriving three days after Hurricane Harvey struck. The truck driver delivered the hay and then returned to Florida, with all expenses covered by the Larsens.

Although willing and eager to help meet the needs of fellow ranchers and farmers across the country, the Larsens don’t neglect needs closer to home.

The youngest of eight children growing up on a family farm near Salem, Richard Larsen learned at young age the value of what it takes to be there to work together for family survival. A graduate of Sugar-Salem High School, he attended Rick’s College in Rexburg before going into farming.

“I always wanted to farm, I never wanted to do anything else,” Larsen said.

He finds fulfillment in working alongside his son. Chad Larsen manages the Florida shipping operations from the Dubois farm.

“I am so proud to have my son working with me as my business partner,” Richard Larsen said.

Among Richard Larsen’s main priorities are the youths of the Clark, Jefferson and Madison county areas, which he supports through their 4-H programs, as well as high school scholarships and a number of other needs, including providing jobs. Some of the scholarships he coordinates with the Dubois Lions Club. One of his most recent endeavors was helping the Clark County High School in Dubois with the development of its first FFA program.

Last year, a new student entered Clark County High School, after having been an active member of the Madison High School FFA in Rexburg. He was disappointed to learn Clark County did not have a similar program.

As soon as Richard Larsen heard the student was looking to help bring an ag program and the FFA to Clark County, he was there to help.

Larsen told him: “Whatever it takes to get this program into the Clark County school, you can count on me to help.”

Larsen was to become one of the programs main directors. This year, Clark County has a full-time agriculture teacher.

Richard Larsen also reaches out to the local community whenever the need arises. He is a strong supporter of the Dubois Lions Club as a member, by promoting its youth and community programs is a past president and current vice president.