Farm Rescue: Volunteers Deal With Plant Date Uncertainties

If you think your spring planting program is uncertain, think about the task for Farm Rescue, which relies on an all-volunteer workforce.

Bill Gross, head of the Jamestown, N.D., organization that helps injured or ailing farmers plant and harvest crops, calls this time of year a “logistical nightmare,” because some of the volunteer teams come from a distance and need to be scheduled in.

“Some of them are trying to make reservations to fly in,” Gross says, explaining that the organization doesn’t cover the transportation for its volunteers. But the volunteers want to know when to make their arrangements and that’s difficult when there is snow on the ground and temperatures are in the mid-20s in the first week of April.

Farm Rescue expects to start planting with local volunteers April 15 in western North Dakota. The out-of-state volunteers are scheduled in April 22. Every year the organization has workers from about 15 states — most staying two weeks to a month. 

Farm Rescue has about 15 cases approved for planting this year in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Iowa. About three of the cases so far are scheduled for Iowa, where the organization expanded in the harvest season of 2012. Gross, a Cleveland, N.D., native and pilot for UPS, started Farm Rescue operations in 2006. The organization has helped over 200 people. He expects the organization ultimately will schedule about 30 to 35 planting assists across the five-state region. He expects about 15 harvest rescues.

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