Farm Rescue tractor

Farm Rescue equipment operates near Glenburn, N.D. Photo by Farm Rescue.

Seeds of hope are being planted!

Farm Rescue and its many donors and volunteers continue to spread the message of hope by helping the most vulnerable farm families.

The non-profit organization provides high quality planting, haying and harvesting at no charge to families facing serious injury, illness or natural disaster. It’s the 2019 version of neighbors helping neighbors to put in or take out the crops when someone is in need during the planting or harvesting window.

While few farmers can afford new tractors themselves right now, we can all take pride that Farm Rescue has two new tractors that are pulling planters across fields.

The Engelstad Foundation is providing a grant to purchase one of these $400,000-plus tractors. It’s part of a larger $975,000 grant provided by the Engelstads’ Private Independent Foundation based in Las Vegas.

“We just needed to acquire some of this equipment ourselves, so we’re more, should we say, self-sufficient, and we don’t have to depend 100 percent on sponsored equipment,” said Farm Rescue Founder and President Bill Gross.

Difficult times in the farm economy have forced companies to decrease their donations to Farm Rescue that began operating in 2005.

The Engelstad Foundation stepped up to help fill the financial gap. Before his passing in 2002, Ralph Engelstad and his wife, Betty, created the Engelstad Family Foundation as an entity to redirect assets to those in need.

Engelstad, a self-made businessman born in Thief River Falls, Minn., was the owner of the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino and several other businesses. He attended the University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks, N.D., where he later donated $104 million to build the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Since its inception, the Engelstad Foundation has provided more than $300 million in grants.

“We really want to give a thanks to the Engelstad Foundation for helping us in this generous fashion,” Gross said. “We would not be able to continue helping the numbers we are helping without it.”

Gross said the Engelstad Foundation has been a supporter over the years – providing some funds initially and then adding to those funds. Most recently, Farm Rescue asked for the almost $1 million grant.

“The $975,000 was what we requested, and they did award the full amount, which was just a Godsend to us,” he said.

Engelstad Foundation is the largest supporter of Farm Rescue with $1.49 million awarded since 2015. The most recent $975,000 will be given over three years, with $75,000 going to general operations and the remainder going toward harvesting equipment.

Those general operation dollars are very important too, Gross said.

Farm Rescue has three fulltime employees – Lynn Olien, office manager; Luke Benedict, field operations manager; and Dan Erdmann, marketing communications officer. It’s a six-state operation, so Gross feels they really can’t operate with fewer employees. The Board of Directors and Gross serve without pay, as do the many volunteers who run equipment. Some travel expenses for volunteers are covered.

In 2019, Farm Rescue has already delivered over 100 loads of hay to farmers in Nebraska and the surrounding areas following the bomb-cyclone in March. That has stretched 2019 resources thin, said Gross, as a similar operation was performed to provide hay to the western Dakotas and eastern Montana two summers ago during extreme drought. About 300 loads of hay were delivered back then, and it’s possible a similar number of loads will be delivered to Nebraska this year.

Farm Rescue seeding operations started in late April in North Dakota.

Gross mentioned that in 2017, Farm Rescue helped 127 farm or ranch families, as well as 85 families in 2018.

“I think this year, we’re going to be around that 100 mark again,” he said. “That’s a lot of families, farm families and ranchers to help.”

Farm Rescue long depended on RDO Equipment to provide millions of dollars in equipment, but with the poor farm economy that level of support is no longer possible.

“RDO Equipment still helps us a bit, but on a much smaller scale than what it was years ago as far as sponsoring equipment, and that’s a direct correlation to the economic times,” Gross said.

Many companies continue to sponsor equipment, including Gooseneck Implement, Langdon Implement, Green Iron Equipment and Haybuster.

Donors have given generously to fund the cost of the other new John Deere tractor, he added. Gross encourages families and individuals to donate when they can – whether that’s with their time and talents or with their pocketbooks.

Raffle tickets are currently being sold for two 5,000-bushel grain bins, and readers can learn more about that at farmrescue.org. Gross also encourages individuals to mail donations to Farm Rescue at P.O. Box 28, Horace, ND 58047, call 701-252-2017, or email info@farmrescue.org for more information.

You can also nominate someone for Farm Rescue assistance through these contacts. Nominations are still being accepted for 2019.

“People say it gives them hope, and it just takes the burden off their shoulders,” said Gross. “It helps them maintain their livelihood during that time of crisis so they can continue on farming. That’s good for not only them, it’s good for small communities, for rural America.”