Charles Hardie couldn’t help but smile as he sat atop the combine with blades chewing down stalks of yellow corn at a rhythmic pace near here Thursday afternoon.
Hardie watched his monitor as the bushels per acre bounced between 190 and more than 200. Moisture content stayed below 10 percent.
“This corn won’t need any drying,” he said.
With corn prices staying high and the onset of a drought, it looks like this year’s crop would be another bumper, he added.
But Hardie will never see a penny from the harvest.
The 900 acres of corn belong to Dan and Rose Dotzenrod and their son Ben. Hardie, a retired farmer, is a volunteer for Farm Rescue, which provides planting and harvesting assistance to farmers who have experienced a major injury, illness or natural disaster.
The Dotzenrod family was chosen as Farm Rescue’s 200th family to help after Dan Dotzenrod suffered a broken neck.
It was just before noon on June 12 when Dotzenrod slipped off his semi-trailer, severing a vertebra.
“I just missed a step completely and went head over heels straight down. I landed on my neck and shoulders,” Dotzenrod said. “There was a crunching sound on my shoulders. I heard that and of course my neck hurt so I just stayed on the ground.”
Rose Dotzenrod found her husband just minutes after the fall and called the ambulance.
After surgery and a 12-day hospital stay, he was allowed to come home, but on a feeding tube and under strict orders to stay off farm equipment until December.
With his family facing the harvest of 1,500 soybean and corn acres Dotzenrod thought about giving Farm Rescue a call.
“I heard they help families with bad injuries. That was about all I knew,” he said.
The call was made and a half-dozen volunteers and equipment arrived Thursday to begin the corn harvest. Dotzenrod said of the 1,000 corn acres, he hoped to leave 100 for his son Ben to finish.
“I’m sure we could have gotten some help from the neighbors, but they have their own crops to finish,” Dotzenrod said.
Rose Dotzenrod called the response “amazing.”
Bill Gross, president and founder of Farm Rescue, said the Dotzenrod farm is the size and family-oriented business Farm Rescue has built its mission on.
He said volunteers would be work day and night to get the crop in within about a week.
“We need to get done here, there is some weather moving in,” Gross said.
Farm Rescue plans to help three more families during this year’s harvest.
Gross, a pilot for UPS, started Farm Rescue seven years ago and has helped families in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.
“In bigger cities, there are all kinds of nonprofits to help save animals and every other cause, which is good, it’s necessary,” he said. “But what is there to help rural families? There should be a structured organization to help them out.”
This year’s widespread drought, coupled with an injury in the family, can be a “double whammy” for farm families, Gross said.
With volunteers like Hardie and Jim Whitney, who drove grain cart alongside Hardie and the combine, Farm Rescue will help a total of 45 families this year.
Gross said the volunteers and neighbors who help, plus corporate sponsors, are what make the organization work.
“The volunteers are really the ones that become attached to the farm families they help,” he said. “The volunteers become lifelong friends of the farm families.”
Hardie, who sold his Wahpeton farm to his son, has volunteered for Farm Rescue for about 10 years. He said he loves having a chance to do what he loves while helping someone else.
“The most unique part is coming to the rescue when they don’t know which way to turn,” Hardie said. “If in a year we get them back on base, we’ve done our job.”