The farming community is a close one, and neighbors are always willing to lend a helping hand when a fellow farmer is in distress. This sense of camaraderie among the farmers became quite evident when one of them fell seriously ill.
Lane Unhjem was harvesting durum wheat and canola at his farm near Crosby, North Dakota when his combine caught fire. The event was so stressful that Unhjem suffered a heart attack in the middle of the harvest, and was immediately rushed to the hospital.
The community then rallied to support the Unhjems – around 60 farmers put their own crop-picking on hold and harvested the stricken man’s crops. The neighbors, along with friends and family members, used their own equipment to finish the harvest.
According to family friend Jenna Binde, “I talked to a couple of farmers, got their equipment, and then other people just started calling and we had equipment offered from all over the place in the county, and their workers to go with it.”
With the force of the community behind them, the group used 11 combines, six grain carts, and 15 tractor-trailers to finish harvesting Unhjem’s Durum wheat and canola. The group harvested 1,000 acres in seven hours – a tremendous show of support for their friend and neighbor.
Those who stepped up said they just couldn’t stand by and let the Unhjem’s crops go unharvested. Knowing that this would’ve been a big loss for the family, they stated that helping out was just common sense.
Unhjem’s story joins many other accounts of neighbors turning into family, of farmers helping farmers in need. In 2019, a community of farmers harvested the wheat on Larry Yockey’s farm in Ritzville, Washington. For the first time in 50 years, Yockey was unable to harvest his crops due to cancer. Dozens of neighbors hauled their own equipment to the farm and completed three weeks’ worth of harvesting in eight hours.
In October 2019, there was a tremendous amount of goodwill in the farming community of Idaho as members helped each other harvest potatoes and protect cattle in the face of looming frost. Banks opened credit lines and helped drive trucks and work harvesters.
Machinery technicians helped repair trucks and other equipment. Pastors called on church members to provide support, and farmers helped other farmers dig up their crops ahead of freezing temperatures and the risk of frost damage to millions of dollars’ worth of potatoes.
Don Anderson, one of the neighbors who aided Unhjem, shared a now viral Facebook post of the effort, stating:
“You reap what you sow! That’s the old saying that can apply to a lot of things in life. Well, today it has a two-fold meaning – harvesting crops and helping friends! The Unhjems have a beautiful crop that will be safe in the bins today, and more importantly they have the comfort of knowing that they have a community of friends that are helping, praying and doing whatever they can to help them get through this tough time. What a great sense of pride we can all have knowing that when we face something like this, we’re not alone.”
Binde added, “Everybody knows the Unhjems, and they’re good people and good in the community, and it’s just kind of the farming way of life, too. You help your neighbor out when they need it, and don’t expect anything in return.”
Unhjem is in stable condition, after being flown to a hospital in Minot. The family says that Unhjem faces a long road to recovery, but they are assured that the community will always be there to support the family.