September 16, 2010; Source: American Profile | Bill Gross of Seattle is a busy international UPS pilot, but in his spare time and on layovers in such locations as Singapore, he organizes volunteers to help farmers, besieged by tragedy, to plant and bring in their crops. Based in Jamestown, North Dakota, the effort is called Farm Rescue.
Gross a native of rural North Dakota knows from growing up on a family farm how devastating an injury, illness, or natural disaster can be for a farm. He has had this idea for quite a while, but he originally thought about it as a post retirement endeavor. He envisioned himself on a big John Deere tractor as a “random good Samaritan”. Discussions with his fellow pilots on those long flights, however, took him to a grander vision and in 2005 he founded Farm Rescue, an all volunteer effort that can plant and harvest up to 1,000 acres for farmers in need.
Farm Rescue helped 10 North Dakota farmers in 2006, but since then has grown its efforts into South Dakota, western Minnesota, and eastern Montana, helping130 farm families. Says the article, “More than 150 sponsors and hundreds of individuals have donated money to the cause, and more than 500 volunteers have lent a hand, operating equipment, raising money and promoting the organization.”
The volunteers are drawn from far and wide, often driving long distances to help. Jack Limke of Kentucky, a fellow UPS pilot, recently brought his wife and two daughters with him to Montana to help a family where father (Gene Anderson) and son were both working the land. The son died of a genetic liver disease right after his mother (Geri Anderson) had suffered a stroke. Farm Rescue volunteers, including Limke, planted 850 acres of wheat. “On the day of the funeral, the volunteers stopped the tractors for an hour or so and came to the services,” said Gene Anderson. “It’s quite an operation.”
Says Limke, “I think it’s an incredible idea that Bill had, and I wanted to help him. Back in the 1930s and ’40s, there were farming bees when farmers had issues. Now farms are so large and there are fewer of them and it’s harder to take time off and help your neighbors. That’s where Farm Rescue fits in.”
Only approximately half of the applications received by this remarkable endeavor can be served but in our opinion, it is a breathtaking example of powerfully useful service that comes straight from the heart.—Ruth McCambridge