June 16, 2024

Farm Rescue

Corn flows from an auger on a combine that says it all ­— “Helping Farm Families in Crisis,” which is the non-profit organization Farm Rescue’s motto. Farm Rescue came to help Mark Lents harvest corn last week. Lents, who was diagnosed in February with stage 4 cancer, had his third surgery of this year this week.

The last half of last week southeast of Greenfield, a combine was running through Mark Lents’ corn fields to bring in this year’s crop. Trucks were ran between the field and the local cooperative in town, keeping up efficiently with the harvest.

At the controls of the equipment were staff and volunteers from the nonprofit organization Farm Rescue.

Helping on the farm

Based in North Dakota, Farm Rescue’s mission is to help family farms and ranches bridge crises so they have an opportunity to continue viable operations.

They provide planting, haying, harvesting, commodity hauling and livestock feeding assistance to farm and ranch families who have experienced a major injury, illness or natural disaster. Since they started in 2005, they’ve assisted more than 1,000 farm and ranch families.

Ben Smith, Field Operations Manager for Farm Rescue’s southern territory, was overseeing those working on the harvest at the Lents farm.

From Gilbert, Smith comes at his work with head full of agricultural training, knowledge and experiences.

“It’s very rewarding and fulfilling for me, even as a full-time employee of Farm Rescue. I can definitely see why the volunteers are driven to do this,” Smith said. “Once you see the family and the impact it’s having on them — the stress it is taking off them, and they see that the job’s going to be done well and they won’t have to worry about it anymore — it all comes together.”

Other Farm Rescue personnel here included Dean Isaacs, a southern Indiana retired cargo pilot in his first year volunteering.

Gary Kline grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania before relocating to Florida.

Garry Roberts lives near Keota and is employed by Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg, where he cares for the company owner’s antique farm equipment and vehicle collection that is sometimes open for tours.

Farm Rescue equipment, like the grain cart Roberts was operating and the combine Smith was operating, have large stickers on them pointing out the organization and its many sponsors.

The John Deere combine the crew was using came from Agrivision in Winterset on lease for a certain amount of hours, until the crew’s work was complete here.

Lents was able to see crews start on the harvest last Tuesday before he went in for his third surgery this year on Wednesday. He has been diagnosed with cancer.

Farm Rescue's combine harvests corn on Mark Lents' farm southeast of Greenfield Wednesday, Oct. 18.

‘The sweet spot’

Smith said that as a volunteer firefighter and someone who generally likes to help people, working for Farm Rescue is a perfect spot for him to be in.

Yields on the Lents farm being combined last Wednesday were extremely strong, Smith said. He’s been able to see a wide swath of the midwestern countryside this summer.

“The southern areas of the corn belt are doing better this year than the north is. They got a little more timely rainfall. A case in Clarion we did, they were about average on their soybean yields and I think they were expecting maybe a little less than average of corn. It was very dry there, especially during the month of August,” Smith said. “This field we’re in right now is probably close to a record yield, talking to Mark. South of I-80, down to Highway 34, is the sweet spot for corn yields. The southwest portion of the state is maybe the garden spot this year.”

The why

Just as the volunteers working his fields had a why to what they were doing, a trying part of Lents’ life is what led their family to need the help with this year’s farm work.

Back in January, Mark’s wife Jayne says he began to face some health issues, which led them to a late-February diagnosis of stage 4 colorectal cancer.

Mark immediately went into surgery, then had radiation and chemotherapy. By summer, doctors were very encouraged by his progress.

Because Mark was unable to plant this year, the Lents family was able to contract that work for completion. Neighbors have helped with the cattle at times and the Lents’ son, Shawn, has also helped.

The Lents family knew that a part of Mark’s recovery would be a liver surgery he had about six weeks ago, then he would need another surgery they were sure would come right in the heart of the corn harvest. Farm Rescue worked with the Lents family from an early stage in the growing season, knowing that their services might be needed.

Smith arrived in Adair County and took Mark on a drive, having him show him where all the farm driveways are, where the gates are, and how the land lays in his fields.

Once it came time to harvest the corn, Mark was able to see a little of the Farm Rescue equipment arrive, but then it was time for him to have his surgery, which he had last Wednesday in Des Moines.

Farm Rescue completed the work in about five days, wrapping up Saturday afternoon. A few pieces of equipment remained here Sunday.

Mark’s recovery has overall been good, however Sunday, he was still working to a point where he could come home.

“It’s very much a relief and we are very thankful for everybody that helped,” Jayne said. “That’s probably the hardest thing for Mark — to have someone else do the work. It takes a little bit to accept the help and realize you can’t help, but it’s such a relief to know it’s done. Now, when he’s home, he can focus on healing and getting better. There’s nothing he’ll feel like he has to rush out to do.”

To apply for assistance from Farm Rescue, applications are available at the organizatin’s website, www.farmrescue.org.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.