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Published January 16, 2010, 10:47 PM

RYAN BAKKEN: N.D. bean grower perseveres to feed the hungry

Last spring, Russell Edgar was sitting on a tractor, counting his blessings. It was payback time, he decided. His idea was to plant 20 acres of beans and donate them to the hungry.

By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald

Last spring, Russell Edgar was sitting on a tractor, counting his blessings. It was payback time, he decided.

His idea was to plant 20 acres of beans and donate them to the hungry.

His plan had a few wrinkles in need of ironing. He didn’t have the seed. He didn’t have the chemicals. He didn’t have the equipment for tilling nor harvest. Other than that, he was in great shape.

“I said I’d plant the beans and trust God to do the rest,” the Bathgate, N.D., grower said. “He did, putting all those people in place. I felt in my heart that I needed to do something.”

Those people were Edgar’s neighbors and friends in Pembina County.

The harvest result was 30,000 pounds of beans, enough to feed 7,500 children one meal a day for a month. Some of those beans undoubtedly are headed for the earthquake sufferers in Haiti.

The charity handling the donation is Convoy of Hope, which assisted nearly 6 million people around the globe in 2008 by providing food, clothing, medical aid and other resources.

Working with Convoy of Hope is missionary Bob Bachman, a former fellow member of Assembly of God Church of Cavalier. In addition to being fellow parishioners, Edgar knew Bachman as a “farm boy from Hamilton.”

Starting with blind faith, Edgar’s plan started moving when the local branch of Kelley Bean Co. donated half the seed and discounted the rest. Pembina County growers Scott Gunderson, Tom Erovick, Doug Olson and Leo Lage volunteered to help with such necessities as chemicals, tilling, equipment, harvest, cleaning and shipping.

“Everything clicked right along,” Edgar said. “Everyone had a part in it.”

Some people donate time. Some donate money. Some donate their expertise.

The Pembina County growers contributed all three simultaneously, resulting in a more rewarding experience.

“What do American farmers do best? We raise high-quality food,” Edgar said.

He hopes to attract more farmers this year to benefit Convoy for Hope, which feeds 100,000 children every day.

“Look what just 20 acres have done,” he said. “Twenty acres isn’t much in the scope of the size of our farms in the valley. We use that for headlands.

“We have $200,000 combines. How can we use them to help somebody else?”

His plan calls for a working party at harvest.

“I hear from old-timers about the threshing bees they used to have,” Edgar said. “They’d all get together at harvest to work, have big meals and help someone out. Why can’t we do that again?”

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com.

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