Lending a Helping Hand

Family gets help from volunteer farming organization

Due to health issues, a Slope County family was in need of some help on their farm operation this year.

A Farm Rescue vehicle is parked in Bowman. The crew was staying there while in the area helping out a Slope County farm operation. (Courtesy Photo)
A Farm Rescue vehicle is parked in Bowman. The crew was staying there while in the area helping out a Slope County farm operation. (Courtesy Photo)

By COLE BENZ
Herald Editor |  cbenz@countrymedia.net

Due to health issues, a Slope County family was in need of some help on their farm operation this year. Daryle Dennis and family would be out of the fields for an extended period of time, and to help get their crops harvested they summoned the helped of Farm Rescue, an all-volunteer organization that steps in for families that have suffered illness or injury.

Ryan Dennis, Daryle’s son, said that it has been nice working with the group of three that Farm Rescue sent. The trio arrived on Tuesday, Aug. 9 and were scheduled to stay through Monday, Aug. 15.

Ryan said that the three volunteers were not native North Dakotans, but came from all around.

“Oh yeah. I mean they’re coming from all over the country, one is from Iowa, one is from Utah, and the other one is from Illinois,” Ryan said.

Bill Gross, a North Dakota native and pilot for United Parcel Service, founded the group in 2005, and started operating in 2006. Their first family they worked with as in Stark County on April 11, 2006, and they’ve grown ever since.

“2006 was the first year we helped a farm family,” Gross said. “We’ve grown every year consistently.”

Gross said the Dennis family would be the 390th they’ve helped since the organization’s inception.

“We’ll surpass the 400 mark this year,” Dennis said.

The original plans for the group was to help a few farm and ranch families in North Dakota. But as word of the group’s efforts began to spread, he said they began to get requests from families outside of the state. They now have a five-state operating territory.

“Now we do service all those states, we operate in five states now in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Montana,” he said.

The idea came to Gross when he was flying. He would peer over and look at the farming operations below and wonder why there wasn’t an organization to help farmers hurting by injury or sickness. He knew farming was different from when he was a kid learning the trade; there are fewer farmers and larger operations. So he started brainstorming and came of up with Farm Rescue.

“I just had the plan to be this random good Samaritan,” Gross said. “My heart never left the farming community.”

Along with planting, harvesting and haying, they have added new services that includes hay and grain hauling. Currently they don’t work with livestock, but as they continue to expand, Gross said they will look at adding more services.

Aside from a few office workers that keep the business moving, the crews that head out to the fields are all volunteers, and they come in droves from all over the country. Gross said they have had volunteers from Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, California, Arizona, and Colorado. He said Farm Rescue doesn’t need to advertise for their volunteers, currently they have a database of about 1,000 people waiting and willing to help when they get the call.

“We have more volunteers than we can use,” he said.

But Gross said that shouldn’t deter anyone from applying to volunteer.

“Not that someone shouldn’t apply to use, I mean we can always use some help from a local volunteer and on short notice,” Gross said.

The services they offer are completely free, and the group is supported by multiple sponsors and donors. Sponsors close to the southwest part of North Dakota included Walmart, Bremer Bank, RDO Equipment Company, BNSF, Farmers Union, Dakotah Bank, Dakota Community Bank and Trust, and Consolidated.

In some cases the volunteers are able to use the farmer’s equipment, but mostly Farm Rescue uses machinery donated by RDO Equipment.

Farm Rescue is booked by one of two ways: applying, or being nominated.

“You can refer or nominate a farm family [or] apply directly,” Gross said.

A family needing help can go online or request paperwork to apply for their services. The other option is nomination. If a person knows of a family or individual that could benefit from Farm Rescue’s help, they can alert the organization of the situation and give them the details of the situation. More information can be found on their website, farmrescue.org.

Gross said people can also help out by donating to the organization, which is a 501(c)3 and donors are eligible for a tax deduction.

Farm Rescue also holds an annual banquet, and anyone can attend or even purchase raffle tickets for big, sponsored prizes. This year’s banquet will be held in Fargo on Saturday, Oct. 29.

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