Farm Rescue adds to the volunteer effort at Bauer farm
Posted 8/31/10 (Tue)
Farm Rescue in the field . . . One of the Farm Rescue
organization's combines was rolling Friday afternoon, harvesting
wheat in a field farmed by Dennis Bauer five miles north of his home.
Bauer was nominated for Farm Rescue assistance following
the August 12th tornado and storm that destroyed
his farmstead proprerty and equipment.
By Caroline Downs
Dennis Bauer stood at the edge of a wheat field Friday night, coordinating the work of two combines, a grain wagon and a semi-trailer harvesting the crop. One of the combines, a John Deere 9770 STS with a 35-foot header, flew the United States flag and the Farm Rescue organization banner,
“They’re making good progress,” he said.
Most of the equipment was Bauer’s, spared from the August 12th EF3 tornado that destroyed his farmstead five miles south of the wheat field, east of Bowbells along U.S. Highway 52. He started making preparations for harvest earlier that week and had moved several implements to the fields, including his grain wagon, an auger, his two biggest grain trucks and a new combine. “I pulled the swather out of the yard that morning,” he said.
However, with his house, the outbuildings, the rest of his farm vehicles and machinery, and 21 grains bins in ruins after the storm, neighbors nominated Bauer for the Farm Rescue program. “I don’t know who put me up for it,” he said, “but then Farm Rescue contacted me, and I filled out an application. They told me to put down what I thought would be ready for harvesting. I told them to just do as much as they feel they can do.”
The Farm Rescue combine and three volunteers arrived Friday afternoon. “We got started about 2:30 pm,” he said, “and finished about 200 acres of wheat.”
at Bauer farmstead
Rainy and cool weather dampened Bauer’s harvest efforts through the weekend, but Farm Rescue founder and president Bill Gross, director of operations Pam Musland, and about 25 volunteers held an event at Bauer’s farmstead Monday morning.
Scores of friends and family members spent days helping Bauer clear and pile large debris in his yard immediately following the storm, so the Farm Rescue volunteers took time on Monday to fill buckets and trash bags with the small pieces of wood, shingles and metal left behind. They also picked up a variety of items in the wheat field immediately surrounding the farmstead. Although that particular crop was damaged by hail, the area still needed to be cleared for Bauer to safely operate his equipment there.
Gross explained that Farm Rescue has three teams of volunteers currently operating in North Dakota, with the crew at Bauer’s farm scheduled for work next in the Westhope and Upham areas. The organization assists farmers in North Dakota, South Dakota, western Minnesota and eastern Montana who experience a sudden hardship from illness, injury or natural disaster.
“This is our fifth year,” Gross said, “and this is our 125th case so far.”
Farm Rescue doesn’t give money to farmers, but the volunteers provide one-time planting or harvesting services, depending on the situation, to help a farmer in need. The farmers themselves pay nothing, but Gross cited the support of several businesses in the region to fund the program, including RDO Equipment Company, SunPrairie Grain, SRT Communications, Ryan Chevrolet, Wal-Mart, Cenex, Capital RV, 1st International Bank & Trust, First Western Bank, Bremer Bank, Central Power, Verendrye Electric and Sign D’ZYN of Minot.
“We have a lot of good support from this area of the country,” he said.
Monday’s event at Bauer’s farm included 10 Farm Rescue volunteers who planned to help with the harvesting operations and another 15 employees from the various sponsors who volunteered to work on the debris cleanup. SunPrairie Grain cooked lunch for the crowd, including U.S. Senator Kent Conrad who stopped by to express his appreciation to Gross and the Farm Rescue volunteers for the organization’s efforts across the state.
Senator Conrad also looked at the overcast sky and grinned. “I was hoping to help combine today!” he said.
Farmers volunteer for farmers
The Farm Rescue volunteers at Bauer’s farm literally came from both sides of the country, with Andy Wittenburg of Florence, Oregon, in his first summer with the organization. “I’m here to get my farming fix,” he said, smiling.
Wittenburg farmed for 10 years after graduating from high school. “I used to love farming and the most fun times were when we’d help a neighbor out,” he said. He discovered the opportunity with the Farm Rescue on the Internet, so he signed on and spent time running the combine in Bauer’s wheat field.
Richard Fox of Cabot, Pennsylvania, was on his first Farm Rescue volunteer trip, too. “I read about it in our local paper, of all things,” he said. “I was in North Dakota once and I thought I’d like to get back here.”
Fox was born and raised on a farm in Pennsylvania, which his son now operates. Fox is a retired truck driver who enjoys the vast size of the farms he sees in North Dakota. “In Pennsylvania, our farms are maybe 300 or 400 acres,” he said, looking around at the open fields surrounding Bauer’s farmstead.
Bill Weaver, a seasoned Farm Rescue volunteer from Knox, PA, traveled with Fox to North Dakota last weekend. “I’ve been out three springs for planting, but this is my first time to come for harvest,” he said.
His nephew met Gross and learned about Farm Rescue, and Weaver was quickly convinced to offer his services. A retired farmer, Weaver had 400 acres with a couple hundred head of dairy cattle, with 100 of those to milk every day. “I had a barn blown away in a storm one time,” he said, “and our farm association came in and rebuilt it. This is my cup of tea.”
Like Fox, he enjoyed the large size of farms on the prairie. “We can’t even turn equipment like this around at home!” he said.
Farm Rescue attracts plenty of North Dakota volunteers, too, with Gene Spichke and Warren Zakopyko of Kief sharing their expertise. “This is my fourth year,” said Zakopyko. He actually signed up for the program when he and Spichke attended a farm show in Minot one year. “I said, ‘If you will, I will.’ You get the feeling you can help, and we’re appreciated most of the time.”
“The good Lord put us on this earth to help ourselves and help other people,” added Spichke. “Now that I’m retired, I like to help farmers. You see the hardships and you can do something to help them get over the hump for another year.”
Bauer appreciated the willingness of these volunteers to spend time in his fields. “You’re not in this alone,” he said. “That’s a good feeling. You don’t know how long it will be before you can get back to normal.”
The Farm Rescue volunteers plan to help Bauer finish the one wheat field and 750 acres of canola that were swathed more than two weeks ago. Other harvest assistance has come from SunPrairie Grain in Bowbells.
“They’re trucking some of it for me,” Bauer said, “and they’re holding storage in the elevator for my wheat and canola. Some of that was already contracted.”
Bauer will have more wheat and durum to harvest and store after the Farm Rescue combine leaves, but he said several neighbors have already offered to help. “A lot of people have contacted me,” he said. “We’ll figure out something when the time comes.”
More information about Farm Rescue, as well as information about volunteering or donating to the organization, can be found online at www.farmrescue.org.
Spared by the storm . . . Harvesting equipment owned by Dennis
Bauer had been moved to fields literally hours before
an EF3 tornado obliterated his home and yard. Bauer used that
equipment in a wheat field last week, with a second combine and
crew sent by Farm Rescue to assist with harvesting operations.
More clean-up efforts . . . (Left to right) Dennis Bauer,
U.S. Senator Kent Conrad and Farm Rescue founder
Bill Gross discuss volunteer efforts at Bauer's farmstead Monday.
About two dozen volunteers were on hand to continue cleanup
work started by Bauer's friends and neighbors after the
August 12th storm. Large items were already sorted and
piled, but some small debris remained scattered around the yard.