Farmers to the rescue

MOHALL – Although a farm family here has gone through many difficult challenges lately, their fields will not go unplanted thanks to the generosity of several volunteers and a charitable organization that has helped hundreds of families over the years.

Farm Rescue, the nonprofit organization founded by Bill Gross in 2005, plants and harvests fields for farmers who aren’t able to do the work themselves. The organization was three miles south of Mohall at the farm of David Kinzley to plant some fields Thursday and Friday.

Kinzley has been farming pretty much his entire life, ever since he helped his own father on the farm. He is recovering from a March 27 rotator cuff surgery and isn’t supposed to be in the field, although that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he can. His son, Jon Erik, was planning to help Kinzley plant this spring but was involved in a serious ATV accident in May that left him with a crushed spine and paralyzed him below the waist.

Realizing there was no way to get his crop planted without outside assistance, Kinzley turned to Farm Rescue. He applied, was accepted, and before he knew it volunteers were on his farm getting ready to plant.

“They’re doing a wonderful job,” Kinzley said. “It’s kind of overwhelming, what’s going on out here.”

Kinzley said without Farm Rescue he wouldn’t have hardly any work done in his fields at all. He said the blue-shirted volunteers have lifted a huge weight off his shoulders and allowed him to spend more time with his son, who is in a hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“(He’s doing) pretty good. He’s in rehab. His spirits are up,” Kinzley said. “He wants me to come and see him and everything, so I’d like to get back down there if I can.”

Kinzley’s farm consists of 2,100 acres, of which Farm Rescue was trying to plant 700 to 1,000 acres. The weather, however, wasn’t exactly cooperative, and volunteers spent Friday morning staring at the muddy fields. Kinzley himself was in a field trying to get it dried out enough to plant while the volunteers waited in the farmyard with the seeding equipment.

Gene Spichke of Kief has been volunteering with Farm Rescue for seven years and was at the Kinzley farm with his fellow volunteer, neighbor and good friend Warren Zakopyko.

While they were able to plant some barley Thursday, they were still waiting into the afternoon hours Friday for other fields to dry out so they could get some flax in.

“There’s a lot of water here. We were planting on sunflower ground, which was dry enough. Potholes one after another, but we went around those,” Spichke said. “Wherever there was wheat stubble it’s still wet, so we’re waiting for it to dry out and hopefully continue planting.”

A retired farmer, Spichke said the reason he has come back to volunteer for a seventh year with Farm Rescue is pretty simple, and is a sentiment shared by all the volunteers for that organization.

“I think it’s the satisfaction we get from helping somebody in need. When we get done with a farm and leave, the thank yous we get, the hugs, letters, Christmas cards, it’s just great,” Spichke said. “It’s something that, in our retirement years, we can still help someone.”

Spichke said the work Farm Rescue does in helping all the farmers it does is very important. He said the only reason many of those farmers were probably able to stay in business is because Farm Rescue helped them out when they needed it most. As a fellow farmer, it’s something that hits close to home.

“Losing one crop would probably be the end of the farm,” Spichke said. “Farms are getting fewer and scarcer, and every one you can keep on the farm means a lot.”

Although Farm Rescue helps a lot of farmers every year, it needs help itself. Spichke said it first and foremost needs volunteers who have experience running the massive machinery that modern farming requires. It’s something a retired farmer, like Spichke and many of the other volunteers, is perfectly suited for.

“Any farmer that’s basically retired or thinking of retirement should consider volunteering for Farm Rescue. I think the need for qualified help to run equipment is really important. We have a lot of good volunteers and many of them want to come and help, but they just don’t have the experience running equipment like this,” Spichke said. “And also having someone nearby when we have weather like this, we can just go home. We don’t have to be sitting in a motel and waiting for the weather to clear.

“So it’s kind of nice to have people who are close to home and can work. I really encourage anyone who knows anything about Farm Rescue and would like to volunteer to do so.”

It’s those volunteers who make Farm Rescue able to help so many farmers in need, and it’s those volunteers to which David Kinzley is so grateful.

“They’re a great bunch of people. Most of them are retired farmers and they’re just wonderful,” Kinzley said. “They’re very caring and they know what they’re doing.”