HORACE, N.D. - As Farm Rescue approaches its 600th farm family helped since it began in 2005, the organization is raising money to purchase its own tractors for spring planting.
Bill Gross, founder and president of Farm Rescue, says the organization has raised about half the money needed to buy two John Deere 9570R tractors. The purchases are in response to the nonprofit moving toward owning its own equipment instead of relying on donations from machinery dealerships.
Farm Rescue helps farmers who have experienced injury, illness or natural disaster in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Montana. The organization's volunteers provide planting, haying, harvesting, hauling and livestock feeding assistance to farm and ranch families in need.
In the early days of Farm Rescue, RDO Equipment donated use of all of the John Deere equipment the organization used - tractors, air seeders, combines and more.
"That is a heavy load for one dealership to handle no matter how large you are," Gross said. "They've been drawing down their sponsorship for about three years."
When RDO Equipment let Farm Rescue know it would no longer be providing tractors for spring planting, Gross said Farm Rescue decided to move forward on buying its own tractors, which he said are the "last piece of the puzzle."
Mark Dickerson, director of communications for RDO Equipment and R.D. Offutt Company, says that while he doesn't have an exact accounting for the value of what RDO has donated to Farm Rescue in the past 13 years, the amount is "easily in the seven figures."
The companies, however, have decided to support more causes throughout their nine-state area, he explains.
"We just have to spread things around a bit," Dickerson says.
He was not sure what kind of support RDO might provide to Farm Rescue in the future. The RDO companies still "strongly support the mission of Farm Rescue," he says. "It's a great organization that has done a lot of good over the years."
Gross acknowledges the difficulties for some sponsors given multiple years of low commodity prices causing a ripple effect through the industry. As some sponsors have given less, others have stepped up to support the cause.
"It's been challenging times for everyone in agribusiness - the farmers, the ranchers and the implement dealers and all of our sponsors who support Farm Rescue," he says.
Gross says Farm Rescue has had success in reaching out to private donors and companies and have raised "fairly significant funds" to put toward the purchase of the tractors. Still, the implements aren't cheap.
"We have a long ways to go," he says.
Farm Rescue put out a mailer to previous donors asking for assistance in raising money for the tractors.
"Your support is greatly valued and necessary to continue helping farm and ranch families throughout the region," Gross wrote in a letter accompanying a fundraising packet.
Gross says any amount is helping, whether it's a major sponsorship or an individual donor who can give $25. He is hopeful Farm Rescue will raise the necessary funds by the end of the year.
"We've always gotten very good support from the general public, the farmers, the ranchers and our sponsors," Gross says. "We're going to get through this together and get this equipment and continue helping farm families like we always have."
People interested in donating can do so by visiting farmrescue.org/donate, by emailing a check made out to Farm Rescue to P.O. Box 28, Horace, ND 58047, or by calling the Farm Rescue office at 701-252-2017. Farm Rescue is a 501(c)3 organization, so donations are tax deductible.
Gross says other ways to support Farm Rescue include attending what he expects to be "our largest banquet ever" on Nov. 3 and by purchasing raffle tickets for two grain bin raffles. The banquet will be held in Minot, N.D., and features entertainment, speakers, a silent auction and a commodity auction with seed and chemical items up for bid. The grain bin raffles are two separate raffles for a Meridian bin and an Amber Waves bin. Both bins are 4,800 bushel hopper bins and will be raffled separately. Tickets for the raffles are $20 each.