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Farm Rescue plants for North Dakota farmer

NEAR YPSILANTI, N.D. - Farm Rescue can gather the equipment and volunteers needed to plant crops for farmers who aren't able to work the fields because of injury or illness, but it can't control the weather.

"The weather put us down at least a day this week," said Jeff Preston, a Farm Rescue volunteer from Davenport, Iowa.

Preston was part of a four-man crew planting crops for Gary Marks of Ypsilanti on Wednesday after rain delays on Tuesday.

Farm Rescue is a nonprofit organization providing assistance to farmers facing challenges from illness, injury or natural disaster. Volunteers from the organization plant and harvest crops and put up hay for farm families in need.

Marks was injured when the car he was driving was struck by another vehicle on April 10 in Jamestown. The accident fractured a vertebrae in his neck.

"I'm a month and a week into my collar," he said, referring to the neck brace he was ordered to wear for at least three months. "I could have been paralyzed, but fortunately I wasn't."

The injury left him unable to drive, work in the fields or even be outside the home without someone watching him through the spring planting season. While his son is also working on the farm, he wouldn't be able to keep up with planting the 2,800-acre operation without Farm Rescue.

"Farm Rescue sure is a blessing," Marks said. "They were here six years ago when I fell and broke my femur putting up insulation in the shop. I know how important they can be."

Farm Rescue crew members working on Marks' farm bring a lot of farm equipment experience to the field, although they aren't farmers themselves.

"The crew is all retired John Deere employees," said Ken Enstrom, a volunteer from Bettendorf, Iowa.

Enstrom said he worked as an engineer at the Waterloo, Iowa, factory where many John Deere tractors were built. Others on the volunteer crew had worked in marketing and with John Deere dealerships in the region. They all said it was nice to work with the John Deere equipment furnished to Farm Rescue by RDO Equipment.

Enstrom said the volunteer work allowed them to see different parts of the country and work with farmers in need.

"I do it for two reasons," he said, referring to the time he spends as a volunteer. "First, it's fun to get out and use the equipment you've been building. Second, and more important, you are helping people out."

Preston said the real reward for volunteers comes when they finish the seeding at each farm.

"It can be an emotional time when we leave a farm," he said. "They are thankful as heck."

The Farm Rescue crew will be working on other farms in the area for the next few days, depending on weather conditions.

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