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Iowa community comes together for farmer’s final harvest
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Iowa community comes together for farmer’s final harvest

THURMAN, Iowa — On a warm and dusty weekend in late October, Cole Vanatta’s friends and family harvested his final crop.

Some ran combines, while others hauled and emptied grain wagons or served food. Nearly 1,300 acres of corn and beans were harvested in the hills of Fremont County.

The 36-year-old farmer died Sept. 11 in a tree trimming accident. He left behind his wife Shannon and their three children — Elliey, 14; Josiey, 9; and Royce, 4.

“Cole was always willing to help anyone who needed it, and he would have been one of the first to be involved in something like this,” says his cousin, Corey Collins. “This is something we wanted to do for him.”

Collins says his wife Sharon mentioned the idea to Shannon Smith, one of Cole’s friends and an area farmer.

“He knew a lot more farmers than I do, so he was able to get the word out to a lot of people,” Collins says. “We kind of got things rolling, and it took off from there.”

By the time Oct. 22 rolled around, the crew had assembled an armada of machinery, which included 18 combines, a large collection of tractors and wagons, and anywhere from 80 to 100 volunteers that included members of the Fremont-Mills High School FFA chapter.

“I didn’t know anything about it until Shannon, Corey and Lucas Dinklage said something to me,” Shannon Vanatta says. “It was just so neat to see everyone come together, and it was important that the kids be there to see what the community can do.”

With heavy rains in the forecast, the crew used bags to store grain.

“That really made all the difference because it saved us so much time,” Collins says. “Shannon Smith had bought the bagging system two years ago, and Cole and his dad Tom had purchased one the year before. It saved us from having to unload into bins along with numerous trips to the elevator.”

“It was really like an assembly line,” Shannon Vanatta says. “Everyone knew their role and where they were supposed to be. It was amazing how fast they got everything done.”

The group used Tom Vanatta’s farm as a headquarters. Collins says Cole was the seventh or eighth generation to farm that ground, which has been in the family since 1870.

Shannon Vanatta says prior to the harvest bee, another group had harvested a farm near Emerson, Iowa. Cole farmed with his father Tom and grandfather Wayne.

She says the family has been grateful for the love from their rural community.

“Our family and so many others have helped us, and we are so thankful for it,” Shannon says. “It’s been rough, but we are going to be OK.”

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