Agriculture was 'true love' of Mark Hohn, the farmer who died after spending 20 hours under bales
“If you think something looks weird with your neighbors, just call them,” said Samantha Carmody, the oldest daughter of Mark Hohn. “If your neighbors don’t answer, maybe do a check.”
ETHAN, S.D. — Mark Hohn knew of no such concept as a quick phone call.
“You knew that if your phone rang, you’d be on the phone for an hour,” said Samantha Carmody, Hohn’s oldest of four children.
And if you were on the phone with Hohn, it’s likely he’d be chatting about the farm.
“If anybody would give him ten minutes, he would just like to talk about farming,” said Jared Storm, Hohn’s neighbor and longtime friend. “That was Mark’s true love.”
"He had 23 missed calls when they found him. If he would’ve had his phone that night, we would be having a totally different conversation right now."
- Samantha Carmody, daughter of Mark Hohn
On Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, Hohn hopped on his tractor and headed off to the fields to stack bales.
Somehow, three of those bales ended up on top of him.
“We don't really know exactly what happened, and we’ll probably never know,” Carmody said. “It looked like he was maybe stacking or restacking his bales. He’s kind of a perfectionist, so it looks like he may have gotten off his tractor to check spacing.”
As many as 20 hours passed as Hohn lied beneath the bales. Temperatures dropped to the teens overnight — with wind chills in the single digits — before Hohn’s girlfriend, Kerri Brooks, would find him.
Carmody said Brooks managed to push two bales off of Hohn, and had cut the string of the third bale that was holding him to the ground.
“She didn't even call 911 until she had the bales off,” Carmody said.
Though Hohn had spent the cold overnight hours exposed to the elements, he was found without frostbite. Carmody believes the family dog, Paisley, had kept him warm.
“She actually stayed with him while he was out there,” Carmody said. “He had no frostbite. She laid on him and kept him warm, so she’s been getting spoiled.”
First responders from the Ethan Fire Department decided not to risk transporting Hohn, who had lost feeling in his legs. He was instead airlifted to a Sioux Falls Hospital for treatment resulting from crush wounds and lack of circulation.
Hohn spent three days in the hospital, constantly surrounded by family as doctors worked vigorously to repair the damage to his body.
“They were talking about how he might lose both of his legs,” Carmody said. “They ended up removing his right leg.”
Carmody said Hohn was intubated, and unable to speak, but could communicate through his eyes and hands.
“All [nine of] his brothers and sisters came. Grandma and grandpa came and saw him. Some of his nieces and nephews came and saw him,” Carmody said. “He knows that he was loved and that we were all there.”
Despite the hope and prayers held by the family, Hohn succumbed to his injuries in the early hours of Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. He was 56 years old.
‘Grandpa Moo Cow’ loved farming, family
Hohn and his family had owned the land they farmed for over two decades. Farming and agriculture was in Hohn’s blood, but even more important, was his family.
Hohn found ways to bring his two greatest facets of life together.
“His grandkids — he loved it when they came out to the farm and checked cows with him and rode in the tractor,” Carmody said.
Carmody — the oldest of Hohn’s four children — has two children, Tucker and Tracen.
“My kids, almost all of their great grandparents are alive. They have a lot of grandparents,” Carmody said. “To keep their grandparents straight, they kind of came up with names.”
Hohn was Tucker and Tracen’s only grandparent that farmed, so they dubbed him Grandpa Moo Cow.
But Hohn made sure everyone in his family felt his love.
If he wasn’t working on the farm, it’s likely you’d find him watching his children play football or basketball for Ethan, driving around to wave to the neighbors or stopping into his parents’ house — no matter the time of day.
If you had the time to speak with him, it’s likely he’d try to win you over with a story or a dirty joke.
“He loved telling stories about the bad things I did. He thought it was hilarious,” Carmody said with a laugh. “I was kind of a naughty child. I caused him to lose most of his hair.”
Yet, somehow, the conversation would always loop back to agriculture.
“Everything pretty well related to farming,” Storm said. “The funny thing is his kids are the same age as mine. Between school events, athletic events and stuff like that, basically a lot of it came down to farming.”
In his more private moments, he’d share how happy he was with the life and led and the family he had.
“He always told us growing up ‘My goal is to take care of my kids,’” Carmody said. “He always said ‘When it’s my time, it’s my time’ and to live life to the fullest.”
Filling in on the farm
Hohn’s Mass of Christian Burial was held Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 at SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Dimock with a time of remembrance the day prior.
Carmody said the number of ways friends and family have stepped in during their time of need has far exceeded her expectations.
“The amount of people that showed up [to Hohn’s services] was unreal,” Carmody said. “I was shocked to see how many people showed up to the wake and funeral.”
But beyond showing support to the family, Carmody said their neighbors have stepped in by picking up much of the farm work that’s left to be done.
Storm was working in his shop when his wife told him about Hohn’s accident over the phone.
“We flew over there [as soon as we heard] and thought ‘Oh, he’ll be resilient. He'll make it,’” Storm said. “We never thought it would’ve resulted in what happened.”
Since Hohn passed, Storm has been helping feed and bed the cattle, prepare grain for sale and complete other daily chores that the rest of Hohn’s family may need help with.
Storm said it didn’t matter if Hohn had 10 things to do on a given day — if Storm asked Hohn for help, Hohn came through.
“Hopefully I was the same way,” Storm said. “It seems like I was busy a lot and never got to help him back as much as I’d liked to have.”
Storm knows if he was in need, Hohn would be the first one there.
“If tables were turned, I know my family could’ve counted on him,” Storm said. “We take care of each other and help each other. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Caromdy said that most of the family doesn’t have the necessary experience to operate the farm.
“For me, I don’t know anything about farming paperwork, so I have a lot of stuff I have to do,” Carmody said.
She hopes the family can rent out the land to another farmer and sell the farm equipment and cattle.
A warning on farmer safety
Data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that in 2019, farm accidents in the United States resulted in 410 fatalities. Over 100 agriculture workers across the country lose time from work as a result of farm-related injuries each day.
Carmody and Storm are both aware of the plethora of risks farmers face every day on the farm. They both offered advice on how farmers can stay safe.
Storm’s largest concern is staying alert on the farm.
“You’re putting in a lot of hours, running behind on sleep,” Storm said. “You might not be as alert as you should be.”
All the moving parts of the many various pieces of heavy machinery a farmer operates, Storm warns that accidents can happen even in a momentary lapse of attention.
While Carmody points to the dangers of tractors and all-terrain vehicles that she operated growing up, her biggest concern is staying in communication with others while working.
“We never thought twice about him not answering [his phone] — it really wasn’t that uncommon,” Carmody said. “He had 23 missed calls when they found him. If he would’ve had his phone that night, we would be having a totally different conversation right now.”
Farmers should also keep an eye on their neighbors, and consider making regular check-ins, according to Carmody.
“If you think something looks weird with your neighbors, just call them,” Carmody said. “If your neighbors don’t answer, maybe do a check.”
NIOSH has published a group of links dedicated to farmer safety , as has the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety , the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Farmers Union .
Mark Hohn is survived by his children: Samantha (Nick) Carmody, Rhena (Brody Weiss) Hohn, Shawntel Hohn and Clay Hohn; his grandchildren: Tucker and Tracen Carmody; his girlfriend: Kerri Brooks; his parents: Wilibrd and Darlene Hohn; his brothers: Dave (Karen) Hohn, Rich (Paula) Hohn and Todd (Amy) Hohn; his sisters: Cheryl (Bruce) Anderson, Barb Pierkowski, Judy (Bob) Freeman, Bev (Scott) Johnson, Lisa (Jeff) Larson and Jan (Nick) Bahmuller; and the mother of his children: Denise Hohn.
Mark was preceded in death by a brother, Bob Hohn; infant son and his beloved dog, Suzi.
This story was reported by the Mitchell Republic in Mitchell, South Dakota. All of the Mitchell Republic's content is available to Agweek subscribers at mitchellrepublic.com .