Volunteers are the power behind North Dakota’s nonprofit Farm Rescue. Founded in 2005 by Bill Gross, Farm Rescue reaches out to farmers experiencing momentary crises, providing the assistance necessary to get the farmer beyond the problem. The families helped in 2007 include a family whose homestead was completely destroyed by a tornado, farmers or spouses undergoing treatment for cancer or heart problems, and farmers injured in a variety of accidents.
The organization planted for 10 farmers in 2006 and seeded and harvested for 21 farm families in 2007.
Fewer family farms, and a lower number of children returning to the family farm, mean there is less help from neighbors in times of crisis. Farm Rescue addresses this need for small to medium farms.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2008 planting season.
Gross lives in Seattle, owns a farm in North Dakota and takes time from his regular job to help during planting and harvest. Eighty corporate sponsors along with grants and donations provide the capital necessary to keep the organization in the fields with donated equipment. Volunteers, both on the board of directors and in the drivers’ seats, do the actual work.
Applications by farmers or their neighbors are screened by Gross and a selection committee of volunteers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the North Dakota State University Extension Service, Farm Service Agency and financial institutions. No cash exchanges hands; the organization only offers work assistance, and farmers and ranchers must meet guidelines that focus on farm size and gross sales.
Gross says the organization is looking for sponsors to provide backing in other states. Funds will stay in the state in which they’re raised, Gross says, and he’s confident the group will be able to expand to other states soon.
“I knew the program would be successful,” he says. “I knew it would work because it was needed. But I didn’t know that it would grow as quickly or be as well-received as it has.
“I didn’t expect it to this extent, but I’m very pleased that it is. It’s working. It’s helping farmers, and that’s what it’s for.”
For more information on Farm Rescue, visit the Web site at www.FarmRescue.org.