Neighbors helping neighbors is strength of rural communities

Farm Forum

Farms and ranches thrive through the efforts of families, supported by neighbors and friends. As harvest rolls on, families gather to help and sometimes that help is bolstered by some who appreciate the powerful forces within this extended community.

Friendships between farm neighbors mean a lot. In a business where many times work is solitary, giving back is important because the need for help may come at any time. In our operation, we constantly realize the value of being able to drive into a neighbor’s yard to seek help in getting pulled out of the mud. Or getting a ride from one site to another when a breakdown occurs. And in turn, we hope we’ve been generous in returning the favor.

As operations get bigger and bigger, some wonder if the camaraderie has gotten lost in the drive to work harder and work faster. For one family near Conde, the powerful forces within the ag community came together early this week to harvest this year’s crop.

Steve and Craig Dunker of Conde knew that their neighbor Steve Schaller was struggling. He’s been a neighbor and friend of the family for many years. Since February, Schaller has been dealing with damage to a rotator cuff. Surgery was done, but there were still problems and an infection set in. Dunker said his neighbor Steve had tried to watch the dryer earlier but, health wise, that wasn’t a good idea because of all of the dust.

At a result, Craig Dunker, who had been at the Schaller place to service the grain dryer, talked to his dad, Steve, to see if maybe the neighbors could help out Schaller. Schaller had been a part of the group helping another neighbor who was in need a few years ago, and it seemed to be the right thing to do.

The Schallers had lined up harvest help through Farm Rescue. But there were a lot of acres to do. With conditions this year, the corn would need to be combined and also dried.

The Dunkers started making calls about 11 a.m. Monday, and by 1 p.m. neighbors dropped everything and came to help. Steve Dunker wasn’t sure how many acres were covered, but they took out 80,000 bushels of corn in two days. The corn that was combined was at 16 to 18 percent moisture and slipping through the dryer on Tuesday.

Working with the crew from Farm Rescue, the neighbors combined and hauled the crop to the Dunker farm where they will custom dry it for Schaller. Farm Rescue will either haul it to the elevator or back to the Schaller farm.

Dunker believes that 21 people were involved in getting the work done. Depending on the situation, farm machines were rotated into the working group. In total, there were six combines helping, four grain carts and a dozen trucks. RDO furnished food for them on Monday.

“Farm Rescue is quite a commendable operation,” Dunker said. “It’s an amazing group with a lot of knowledge and willingness to work. For them to donate their help for that period of time is really neat.”

Dunker said that most of those neighbors helping were not even close to being done with their own fields. Many were back on their own acres Tuesday afternoon.

The founder of Farm Rescue, Bill Gross, called from Seattle on Tuesday to add his praise for the volunteers.

“Normally we do a project like this ourselves,” Gross said. “Having some of the neighbors assist got the job done quickly. What a great help that was for that family.”

Gross said if there are families out there that still need help due to illness, injury or natural disaster that prevented them from planting, haying or harvesting their crop in a timely manner, it’s not too late to get help. Applications can be made at Referrals can also be made for those families who may need help.

Schaller still has one more field of corn to do that was planted later. The moisture level is too high to harvest it at this time. Farm Rescue may come back, or else neighbors may help get the job done.

“To start, it was kind of chaotic, but once we got a rhythm established, everyone was very cooperative and helpful,” Dunker said. “It’s fun to see neighbors helping neighbors. That’s what rural communities are like.”