Bill Gross, Farm Rescue, on the Agriculture Technology Podcast
Imagine what would happen if illness, injury, or natural disaster prevented you from doing your job. Like many with close ties to the agriculture industry, Bill Gross knows that, for a farmer, this probably sounds like a nightmare. After growing up on a farm and seeing changes to the dynamic of family farms, he also recognized it would be tough to find help if an unexpected crisis were to strike. So, he did something about it.
Bill is the founder and president of Farm Rescue, a nonprofit organization that provides planting, harvesting, and haying assistance, free of charge, to farm families experiencing an unexpected crisis. Host Tony Kramer invited Bill on the podcast to talk about Farm Rescue – how it began, its unique mission, and special partnership with RDO Equipment Co.
Here are a few of the highlights from the conversation. Listen to the full episode here.
To start out, I’d like to hear more about you and your background, and how you got involved in this industry.
I’m from a family farm in North Dakota. For financial reasons, I was not able to stay on the farm so instead, I went into pilot training and am currently a Boeing 747 captain for UPS.
My heart never left the farming community. While doing mission work around the world, I began thinking about how there are fewer children who stay on family farms these days and it’s harder for neighbors to help each other. I just thought there should be a formal organization to help these hardworking farm families when they have an unexpected crisis.
That’s how I came up with Farm Rescue. It’s a volunteer-run organization, we have about 1,000 volunteers nation-wide that help farming families affected by illness, injury, or natural disaster.
Is there anything else out there like Farm Rescue?
Farm Rescue is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit, a true nonprofit, a unique nonprofit. We don’t take in money and dish it back out. It’s not a handout, it’s not a bailout. It’s a grassroots organization that actually comes and does the work. That’s what these families need, is the work done.
When and how did RDO Equipment Co. get involved?
When I came up with the idea, I knew we needed equipment and the first place I went was RDO Equipment Co. I told them my dream and my goal to help farm families experiencing issues, and asked if they’d be willing to sponsor the John Deere equipment we needed. Without hesitation, they said yes, right there on the spot.
That was in 2006 and our partnership has grown every year. We’ve helped more and more families, expanded our geographical area, and the services we offer to these farm and ranch families.
What kind of equipment is being used?
Farm Rescue provides services for planting, haying, and harvesting. So we use 9570R tractors and S680 combines. For haying, we use 6175R tractors and 569 premium balers. We also use 1890 air seeders with 1910 parts. RDO Equipment Co. sponsors all the equipment; we get new or like-new equipment every year. We’ve planted hundreds of thousands of acres with no trouble.
Are there any feel-good stories that stand out?
The most recent story is our 400th family* we helped at Farm Rescue. In the fall of 2016, it was a man named Tim McLean, and his family. They were dealing with cancer and his father, who’s older, had a broken leg. We came in and harvested soybeans for him.
*Note: Tim McLean, Farm Rescue’s 400th case, is a customer of RDO Equipment Co. Read his Farm Rescue story here.
How can people get involved with Farm Rescue?
We have about half a dozen cases lined up for this spring but we have capacity to do 60. So we encourage people right now to get an application in, or refer a farm family. Maybe you don’t need help yourself but know someone going through a difficult time. You can be a Good Samaritan by referring someone.
Tony and Bill discussed the future of Farm Rescue, including plans to expand into new states and services offered, so please listen to the full episode. What they didn’t discuss was the launch of the first annual National Farm Rescuer Day. The day will be celebrated every March on the third Thursday. Find photos and stories about National Farm Rescuer Day via the hashtag #BeAFarmRescuer.
Visit the Farm Rescue website to learn more about the company, submitting an application for assistance, or how to get involved.
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Host Tony Kramer is a product specialist at RDO Equipment Co. To contact Tony with questions or about being a guest on the podcast, find him on Twitter at @RDOTonyK.