Offering a helping hand

GLADSTONE -- A year ago today, Marilyn and Norman Wanner were there to see the non-profit organization Farm Rescue help their neighbor Matt Biel and his family plant their crops after an accident took Biel's right arm.

GLADSTONE -- A year ago today, Marilyn and Norman Wanner were there to see the non-profit organization Farm Rescue help their neighbor Matt Biel and his family plant their crops after an accident took Biel's right arm.

Now the Wanners were in need of help due to worsening medical conditions for Norman, who is currently in the hospital.

This weekend, the Wanners' spring wheat was planted by Farm Rescue volunteers.

Farm Rescue was started by Cleveland, N.D., native Bill Gross, who is a United Parcel Service (UPS) pilot. As the organizations founder and president, Gross sets aside his vacation time to be able to come out himself and help at as many farms as he can.

Farm Rescue's goal is to help people like the Biels and Wanners who are in need during critical times, such as planting, and are unable to do it alone.


The organization covers a 50-mile radius around North Dakota. Since it started in 2006, it has helped 14 families. This year it is hoping to help perhaps another 14 with four already being assisted.

Farm Rescue is supported completely by volunteers from all over the state and funded by many businesses and individuals.

Marilyn Wanner applied for Farm Rescue's assistance through the organizations Web site in March. She saw how it has helped others.

"I don't know what we would have done without them," Wanner said. "They are planting spring wheat on the 525 acres we rent. We provide the seed and fertilizer and they pick up fuel and equipment, which is donated to them."

Bill Krumwiede from Voltaire, N.D., came down to Lefor as a volunteer to help on Sunday. He worked a full day and finished planting the rest on Monday. Krumwiede went to all 10 farms helped last year. He is retired from working at the Basin Electric Antelope Valley Station in Beulah.

"I have the free time," Krumwiede said. "It's good to help, even neighbors here and others have come, which is great."

Farm Rescue has already been to Eureka, S.D., to a farmstead completely destroyed by a tornado this year. Those in Hebron, Turtle Lake, the Minot area, Grand Forks area, Gackle, Breckenridge, Minnesota, Casselton, Bismarck and Dunn Center are in need of help due to surgeries, injuries or illness.

Gross started the organization because of the changing trend he had seen with family farms over the years.


"Over the years, I noticed the demographics change with families in farming. There are fewer of them with fewer kids to help," Gross said. "I just thought there should be an organization where individuals could volunteer from across the state to help those who are going through a difficult time ... in a concerted effort."

Instead of the next door neighbor shouldering all the burden to help, the idea was to have neighbors on a bigger scale helping, he added.

The idea for Farm Rescue came to Gross as he thought about retirement. As a long range pilot, Gross must retire when he turns 60. A co-worker asked him what he would do and Gross said he wanted to be a good samaritan.

"I said I was going to get a John Deere (equipment) and go around helping people who need it (on their land)," Gross said. "When you retire most people go on vacations, but it's really about doing something you like and I didn't forget about my farming roots. I want to give back to people and this was a way to do it."

Although Gross isn't retiring yet, he realized he didn't have to wait to fulfill his dream of helping out farmers and Farm Rescue was born.

The organization has a six-member board consisting of experts in agriculture, finance and who are experienced farmers. It was incorporated in 2005 and before being able to help farmers took a year to get funding and financial support.

The number of farms the organization can help each year depends on the funding it receives.

"RDO Equipment Company supplies John Deere equipment free of charge and is by far our largest sponsor along with Bremer Banks, which has given us grants and funding," Gross said. "New this year is Dan's Supermarket, which is doing a check out donation fundraiser at its Dickinson, Bismarck and Mandan locations."


At the checkout counter customers get a card if they donate a dollar to Farm Rescue, but it's only going on for a couple weeks, he added.

Gross and the board of directors always hope they can help more farmers including those in need during harvest time. Again, it all depends on funding, Gross said.

Anyone interested in more information on Farm Rescue can go to .

What To Read Next
Get Local