A glimmer of hope for Share the Harvest
By Jerry Kiger, Conservation Agent
Things looked bleak for the Ozark County Food Pantry when Randall and Karin Vaught sold out and moved to Arkansas last year. Randall had been processing deer for many years here in Gainesville, and for the past several years he was our one and only processor in Ozark County for the Share the Harvest program. When he moved right across the state line, he looked into processing deer down there and continuing to participate in the program. However, he found that participating in the program wouldn’t be possible due to regulations in both Arkansas and Missouri getting stricter since the appearance of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in northwest Arkansas and the threat of it spreading into southern Missouri.
With our only Share the Harvest processor unable to participate, it looked as though the Ozark County Food Pantry would be facing a significant shortage of meat this winter for needy families and individuals here in Ozark County. Thankfully, our neighbors to the east were willing to help us out. Both of the Share the Harvest processors in West Plains, Barnett’s Processing and Kim’s West Plains Processing, have agreed to process deer for Ozark County’s Share the Harvest as well as Howell County’s.
Just as in the past with Vaught’s, hunters who take their deer to one of those two West Plains processors to donate it to the Ozark County Food Pantry may either donate the entire deer or do a partial-deer donation. If the hunter donates the entire deer, we have sponsors lined up who will cover the cost of processing it. However, as for hunters who only want to donate a portion of the meat to the program and keep the rest of the meat for themselves, they will be responsible for paying the entire processing fee.
In addition to the willingness of Barnett’s and Kim’s to process deer for the Ozark County Food Pantry, we may also be blessed by the kind-heartedness of the First Baptist Food Pantry in West Plains. Last year, they almost ran out of freezer space for the deer meat donated to Share the Harvest. They said that if they run into that problem again this year (if you can call an overabundance of generosity toward those less fortunate than yourself a “problem”), they will send what they don’t have space for over to the Ozark County Food Pantry.
It’s understandable that some of the hunters who would be willing to take their deer to Vaught’s to donate to the program won’t want to mess with the inconvenience of driving all the way to West Plains to donate their deer. However, we are hopeful that at least some hunters will be willing to make that sacrifice to help those who rely on that source of meat.
If you are heading to the forest or field in pursuit of a deer this fall, be safe and consider making that sacrifice and donating to Share the Harvest. As always, if you have any questions about the regulations or want to report any illegal hunting activity, call me at 417-989-1690, or call Conservation Agent Tom Leeker at 417-989-1693.