“Farm Rescue is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. It is wonderful to help farm families in need, so they may have an opportunity to extend their legacy for future generations,” Bill Gross, founder of Farm Rescue, said in a phone interview.
As a way to generate funds for the Farm Rescue Foundation, a Win the Bin raffle offered a 4,800-bushel Amber Waves hopper bottom grain bin as a prize. Raffle sales were completed at the Brown County Fair in August with ProAg Supply selling tickets.
Terry Andersen of Oakes, N.D. was the winner.
Gross explained that the Farm Rescue Foundation is separate from Farm Rescue with its own board of directors and operates under different parameters. The Foundation helps the injured farmers and ranchers with equipment which allows them to be productive on their farm after a debilitating injury.
They can provide a lift for a person to get into a tractor, or an electric grain bin opener which would help a person who has had an arm severed to be able to work. They provided a lift for a young man in Montana, and another in Rugby, N.D. Both who were paralyzed from the waist down. These devices allowed them to plant their crops.
Farm Rescue’s mission is to help farmers and ranchers who have experienced a major illness, injury or natural disaster by providing the necessary equipment and manpower to plant, hay or harvest their crop.
“Farm Rescue has had a very busy year, in fact, the last three years are the busiest in the organization’s history," Gross said. "They helped with normal planting, haying and harvesting, typically aiding 50 to 60 farm families, who have been hurt by natural disasters. With the flooding in Nebraska, they activated Operation Hay Lift, which hauled more than 100 semi-loads of hay to Nebraska ranchers who lost hay for their cattle.”
Last year, Farm Rescue helped 83 people. This year, with a large number of cases in Nebraska, there will probably be between 125-140 cases.
“If you know of someone who needs help, fill out the nomination form," Gross said, encouraging nominations. "There is a marked increase in stress and anxiety this year and we want to help where we can. There has been an increase in the numbers of suicides and we want to help the families get their work done before it gets to the point where they are overwhelmed.”
He said, unfortunately, according to IRS rules, once a person passes away, they cannot step in to help the family. The IRS ruling is that they can’t use funds for someone who doesn’t exist, even though the death creates hardship.
“We want to get there to help those families before it’s too late.
“We have helped in those cases where there is documented depression. We can help those who are under clinical treatment for depression and we don’t publicize who they are. When you see a neighbor, who can’t function and is struggling mentally, reach out to get them the help they need. Farm Rescue is one of the avenues who can take some of the burden of getting the work done when someone in the family can’t function. The Farm and Rural Stress Hotline is another place where people can find help.”
Farm Rescue serves the people of South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska. Their services include planting, haying, harvesting and livestock feeding assistance, which was added just last year.
“At one farm south of Watertown, we went and fed cattle while the farmer recovered from surgery,” Gross said. “In years of drought when there were several huge wildfires, Farm Rescue hauled quite a bit of hay to feed the bison in the national park. The year before, there was a major drought in western North Dakota. More than 300 loads of hay came from around the United States, stretching over a period of 9 months. We hauled all fall to feed, and that extended through the winter and into spring and summer 2018. Between haying and harvesting, there has been no down time for Farm Rescue.”
While nearly 1,000 people volunteer to help with Farm Rescue, Gross said they are always short of CDL-trained drivers.
“That’s always critical and seems to be our pinch point. There are never enough people to drive trucks. Anyone who is interested and has a CDL license is welcome to apply at farmrescue.org. If we have 20 who apply, we could use them all.”
The volunteers for the group come from 49 states.
“It’s a great avenue of goodness that flows into our state," Gross said. "I never imagined that Farm Rescue would grow so fast. We have a number of different personalities who find great joy in helping others. It is an altruistic mission. People don’t do it for any other reason than to help. It shows the goodness in people through a unique and very positive program.”
From its inception in 2005, “Farm Rescue has grown to something more than I imagined," he continued. "Sometimes when I sit down and take a breath, I’m amazed and inspired that these people want to come and help these farm and ranch families. Local people do a lot for their neighbors and this helps extend the reach.
"All of the volunteers are amazing. While they provide the labor, it takes money to keep the organization going. Donations are accepted online at farmrescue.org or at Farm Rescue, P.O. Box 28, Horace, ND 58047.”
The organization has seen an increase in memorial donations from across the United States. If people have something of value or a gift in kind, that is welcome.
On Nov. 23, Farm Rescue will have its annual banquet in Minot, N.D. Donations for the silent auction are welcome, anything from honey, to quilts, to custom-made benches. Check out farmrescue.org to learn how to donate.
“We have a very unique program that is good for all of us: the people who want to help, the small communities and those who are helped," Gross said. "It is very rewarding.”