BRIDGEWATER — Kenton and Autumn Hofer are no strangers to helping others.
Kenton Hofer has built a house on a mission trip to Guatemala, and the Bridgewater couple donate crops to Foods Resource Bank, a Christian organization that takes money from donated crops and turns it into grant funds for agricultural development.
So in February, when Kenton knew he’d need a bone marrow transplant, they went online and filled out an application to receive assistance from Farm Aid, a nonprofit organization that rallies volunteers to provide planting and harvesting assistance to farmers who have experienced major injury, illness or disaster.
This season, Farm Rescue has helped South Dakota farmers in Bowdle, Ipswich and Columbia, in addition to the Hofers in Bridgewater.
“I would have had to be completely dependent on hiring neighbors,” Kenton Hofer said. “With spring being late the way it was, everyone was in a rush to get their own in first.”
Hofer was diagnosed in September with myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow cancer in which bone marrow doesn’t produce enough healthy blood cells.
He underwent a bone marrow transplant in early April in Rochester, N.Y., but was told he wouldn’t be able to return home for 100 days.
“I knew we wouldn’t be back for planting,” Hofer said.
His homecoming was in June, five weeks earlier than anticipated, but between his arrival late in the season and daily doctor visits, he would have missed planting his corn.
A team of volunteers, ranging from the Midwest to the East Cost, spent a few days planting the Hofers’ corn in late May and finished a few days later, just in time.
“We got the corn in just ahead of when it turned wet,” Hofer said. “Without their help, most of the corn would not have gotten planted.”
A week after 600 acres of corn was planted at the Hofer farm, Farm Rescue went to plant for a Howard farmer who was recovering from knee replacements, but arrived to learn the farmer’s neighbors stepped in and planted his field.
Farm Rescue is based in Jamestown, N.D. Since 2006, Farm Rescue has assisted more than 230 families in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and eastern Montana.
At least 20 of those farm families have been in South Dakota.
The organization will plant or harvest up to 1,000 acres per family, and provides all the equipment and manpower, while farmers provide seeds, fertilizer and gasoline.
Hofer’s bone marrow transplant was successful, and he is planning to harvest his corn without assistance. He’s hoping for a large crop, in which case he may need to hire help.
“If I keep progressing like I am now, I won’t need the help,” Hofer said.
Due to their charitable work, the Hofers are not used to being on the receiving end of aid. Around 100 acres of crop will be donated to the Food Resource Bank, and Hofer has hopes of one day returning the favor and volunteering for Farm Rescue.
“It’s humbling,” Hofer said. “It increases our commitment to helping others when you see how much others are helping you.”
While recovering in Rochester, the Hofers were able to meet with Bill Gross, Farm Rescue’s founder, and be a part of a video interview for Farm Rescue.
“It’s not easy receiving help. Most farmers are independent, proud people,” Hofer said. “I was pretty sick for a while, and without their help, I wouldn’t have gotten my crop planted, on time at least.”
To be eligible for assistance, the farm must be a viable operation and the farmer must be actively engaged in farming, along with having more than three years of farming experience. Assistance can be requested once every three years.