by April Scheinoha
Sometimes a farmer needs a helping hand. Tom Koop has found himself in that situation after suffering from a debilitating injury. Now, the Thief River Falls farmer is relying on the help of friends, strangers and hired help to plant 1,600 acres.
On Thursday, May 11, five strangers helped plant 460 acres of soybeans for Koop. The Farm Rescue volunteers traveled many miles to Koop’s rented farmland northeast of Mavie. They were team leader Mark Baumgarten, and crew members Clay Robertson, Bill Robertson, Mark Olson and Tom Meyer. Baumgarten and Meyer live in Iowa. The Robertsons are from Tennessee, and Olson is from Binford, N.D.
Farm Rescue assists farmers and ranchers in crisis for free with such activities as planting, harvesting, haying and feeding livestock. More than 400 families have been helped since the creation of Farm Rescue in 2006. It serves people in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Iowa and Nebraska. Last year, Farm Rescue harvested 400 acres of soybeans west of Wannaska for John and Samantha Quamme. The Quammes live in Thief River Falls, and John Quamme received a kidney transplant last year.
Baumgarten said Farm Rescue typically plants between 400 and l,000 acres for recipients. He added that the team typically includes two or four volunteers. However, Bill Robertson wanted to join his son on this trip. With equipment and support from sponsors, including some in northwest Minnesota, the workers expected to finish planting the soybeans by the end of the day.
Koop learned about Farm Rescue and contacted the organization after becoming injured last November. A tree fell across his back, breaking his left hip and breaking his pelvis in half. Koop also suffered nine fractured vertebrae and two broken ribs. Thirteen screws were inserted into his left leg and four were used to repair his pelvis. “I couldn’t walk for three months,” said Koop. “They wouldn’t let me walk.”
Koop is now walking on his own with the assistance of a cane. He has been told his nerve damage may take a year to heal.
Koop didn’t know what he would do without the efforts of Farm Rescue, his friends and hired help. He was appreciative of their efforts, saying they stepped up when he needed. Tearing up, Koop said, “I’ve got a great bunch of friends.”