SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (NewsNation Now) — Steve Meland has been farming most of his life.
“40+ years of farming,” said Meland.
More than four decades of planting, growing and harvesting near Sioux Falls, South Dakota — until this year.
“In the end of August, I developed a rash on my back, I went to the VA, and they didn’t think of it as being serious but it progressively got worse,” he said.
At one point he could barely walk.
After a battery of tests, he was diagnosed with a rare immune disease which breaks down his muscle mass. He says this explained why he had trouble moving around — and that wasn’t the end of the bad news.
“Through the course of all the testing, they also determined I had two lumps in my throat — in my neck — that were cancerous,” he said.
The diagnosis meant Meland, an Army veteran and Commissioned Officer with 21 years of military service, wouldn’t be strong enough to harvest this year’s corn and soybeans on his small family farm.
That’s where an organization called Farm Rescue came in.
“They came in with a combine and a semi-truck and trailer — and then they provided three individuals who are strictly volunteers that did an excellent job of running that equipment,” Meland said.
Emil Baranko is one of those volunteers.
“If we can take a load off his mind, make sure that he knows that we’re doing the best job possible, then we’ve done our job,” Baranko said.
Farm Rescue is a nonprofit that started in 2005 as a way to help struggling farm families. The organization brings in equipment and manpower — all free of charge.
Neil Roers, a Minnesota banker, is helping oversee harvesting on his in-laws’ farm in Chelsea, South Dakota — with the help of Farm Rescue.
“Farm Rescue’s got trucks rolling in and they got the corn coming in, which is huge,” he said.
Roers is on the farm, because his father-in-law Steve Swanhorst had a life-threatening ATV accident over the summer.
“He definitely went down — was out cold,” Roers said. “They had him in surgery to remove part of his skull because he had some brain bleeding. He’s got brain trauma right now, so his ability to be out here — yeah he’s in the hospital right now.”
Farm Rescue is in place, helping harvest more than 2,000 acres of corn.
“Right now Farm Rescue being able to come here is the reason that the crops can come in without the huge cost — because corn prices aren’t great right now; but we’re making it happen,” Roers said.
“I’ve been to Wisconsin, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa — we worked in Iowa our first year,” Baranko said.
“It’s such a humbling experience to know that somebody trusts you enough to let them take care of their livelihood. You know we should be thanking them, instead of them thanking us, for the privilege of coming up and being able to help out and carry on their livelihood,” volunteer Kenneth Chyle said.
Farm Rescue has helped nearly 700 families, by making sure each farmer knows they’re not alone.
“What a great group of guys they’ve got out here. Volunteers that are here just out of the sheer greatness of their heart. I can’t thank them enough,” Roers said.
“We grew up where you really don’t ask for help — you’d probably be more willing to try and go give it sometimes, than to take it because it’s just the way our nature is,” Meland said. “In this case, it’s been a gracious learning period for me. It was a real awesome experience to have that opportunity of somebody helping me.”
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