Dan Dotzenrod is like most North Dakota farmers in that he takes immense pride every fall in being able to see the fruits of his labors as the crop comes off the field. After an accident in June, however, Dotzenrod is learning a new lesson in human compassion that several other North Dakota farmers have also learned. The Wyndmere farmer is the 200th person to receive help from Farm Rescue.
The nonprofit organization Farm Rescue, which provides free planting and harvesting assistance to farmers who have experienced a major injury, illness or natural disaster, assisted its 200th family in Wyndmere last week.
“I don’t think any farmer wants to ask for help, but that’s just a fact of the matter some times. With Farm Rescue here I think it will get done four times faster,” Dotzenrod said. “It does change the way you think, more willing to help other people.”
On June 14, Dotzenrod fell about four feet from the fuel tank on a semi- truck after missing a step. He fell on his shoulders and neck, causing a break in his vertebra. He spent 12 days in the hospital before being allowed home, hooked to a feeding tube with strict orders to stay off the farm equipment until December. It was a tough pill to swallow since the man has never missed harvest in his 38 years on the job.
“The reason you farm is so you can harvest,” Dotzenrod said. “I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude and thankful we will still have a harvest.”
His farm is 900 acres scattered around an area three miles northwest of Wyndmere. Dotzenrod farms with his wife and son, and his daughter even chipped in by driving her first semi-truck this week.
The 100th farm family to be helped by Farm Rescue, Dustin and Lucinda Lien, were also on hand to see the next monumental achievement for the organization they described as an extended family after they received help in 2009. Dustin Lien was crushed between a tractor tire and a pickup three years ago on their land in Ypsilenti, N.D. southeast of Jamestown.
Dustin Lien noted that at first he wouldn’t even consider applying for help after a family friend suggested it, but then after the doctor said he was going to be laid up for three to six months, his wife Lucinda filled out the form that night. Looking back on it, the Liens say their perspective has changed but they understood the difficulty of breaking their independent ways.
“I think there is a certain independence among farmers that you don’t want to go ask for help; you don’t feel like you should,” Dustin Lien said. “There is always a certain pride in self reliance.”
Lucinda Lien added, “What’s great about Farm Rescue is that they know how hard it is to come in and say ‘we physically can’t do this.’ I learned how to do a lot but there was only so much I was going to be able to do. It was hard to ask for help but yet probably one of the most rewarding experiences when these people you don’t know show up and treat your farm like it is there own.”
Farm Rescue gives families in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Iowa a chance to continue their livelihood by providing the necessary equipment and manpower to plant or harvest their crops when unable to do so themselves. President Bill Gross said the idea developed out of a difficult personal situation where he planned to go into farming with a little help from his folks. Difficult times didn’t make that dream a possibility so he became a full time 747 pilot. His heart never left the farm so in 2006 the organization of just Gross and a few friends started helping farm families. In the seven years since the program has expanded beyond his wildest imagination.
Farm Rescue has a database of around 1,000 volunteers. Some of the volunteers are retired farmers but Gross noted that most are people with regular full time careers who just want to take time off and help. Over half of the volunteers are from states out of Farm Rescue’s service area.
Visit farmrescue.org or call 701-252-2017 to nominate a farm family for assistance or obtain additional information on this unique nonprofit organization.