Farm Rescue Nonprofit Adding Haying Assistance

The barn on the 19th century Johnson County Poor Farm just west of Iowa City on Melrose Avenue can be seen through stalks of corn in this Oct. 19, 2001, file photo. (Brian Ray/KCRG-TV9)

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By Ellen Kurt

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A regional nonprofit group that plants crops for farmers in need in the spring and harvests crops in the fall is now adding some summertime work.

North Dakota-based Farm Rescue is accepting applications for summer hay-baling assistance from farmers in its service territory of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and eastern Montana.

"We'll see how many applications we get and we'll help as many as possible, just like we started Farm Rescue in the beginning," said founder Bill Gross, a North Dakota farm boy who now makes a living flying a cargo plane out of Alaska and still finds time to serve as president and CEO of Farm Rescue.

The organization doesn't hand out cash - it brings volunteers to a farm to do the actual physical labor. As with planting and harvesting assistance, farmers must have suffered a major injury, illness or natural disaster to qualify for haying help, which likely will be done in June and July.

Farm Rescue has helped more than 250 farm families with planting and harvesting since its inception in 2006, and has received many requests for haying assistance. Gross said it is finally possible because Fargo-based RDO Equipment Co. - which owns and operates more than 60 farm and construction implement dealerships and is Farm Rescue's biggest sponsor - is supplying a tractor and baler.

It's a way to help more farmers, RDO Executive Vice President Keith Kreps said.

Farm Rescue has a database of nearly 1,000 volunteers but it could use more with the addition of the haying operation, Gross said.

"We have more coming nationally than we do locally" in the five service states, he said.

People who want to volunteer can sign up through the Farm Rescue website. People also can sponsor a volunteer, paying for their lodging and meal expenses, Gross said.

"We're not a social club - volunteers are working hard, working long hours," he said. "The money is well spent."

Farm Rescue is operating on a cash budget of between $400,000 and $450,000 this year, down slightly from last year.

The organization also gets between $200,000 and $250,000 worth of in-kind contributions, such as free use of farm equipment, each year. The Farm Rescue Foundation, a separate nonprofit launched last year to provide specialized, non-medical equipment to farmers overcoming physical challenges, has a budget of about $65,000 this year. That should be enough to help six farmers, two more than last year, Gross said.

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