Saving the Family Farm

Posted: Oct 19, 2012 7:45 AM

One group is lending helping hands—literally—to make sure family farms stay in business.


From Townhall Magazine's October Townhall of Fame installment by Leah Barkoukis:

Bill Gross, a UPS pilot, was flying over the Pacific Ocean when he discovered what he wanted his mission in life to be: saving America’s family farms.

During the flight, Gross’ co-pilot asked what he wanted to do in retirement. Gross, whose heart never left his family’s farm in North Dakota, envisioned himself being a “random, good Samaritan” that would go around the country helping farm families.

The conversation planted the seed for what would become Farm Rescue, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting farm families that experience injury, illness or a natural disaster.

“There are not as many family farms anymore,” Gross tells Townhall. “These small towns across America, a lot of them are dying off because the children are all leaving.”

The economic hardships many farm families faced in the 1980s changed the demographics, he explains. When the children left, the population declined, local businesses shut down and cities often became permanent ghost towns.

When pressed by a friend, Gross realized his mission didn’t need to wait until retirement. He also began to think more broadly. In addition to retired farmers probably willing to help out, there had to be others like him that left the farm but didn’t want to, he figured.

The pragmatic pieces began to fit together, too.

“Whoever is doing business, and agribusiness is a big business, you know, those companies would surely sponsor Farm Rescue because it’s in their best interest to keep these farm families all going,” Gross recalls thinking about how to fund the operation.

Fortunately, the stars aligned for Gross. Farm Rescue launched in 2006 and today has approximately 1,000 volunteers in its database, operates in five states—mainly in the northcentral U.S.—and has helped more than 200 farm families stay in business. Thanks to the many sponsors and volunteers, Farm Rescue can help farm families maintain their livelihood and continue feeding America.

“A large part of that food [in grocery stores] is coming from our family farms, and people take it for granted,” Gross says

To read more of Barkoukis' profile of Farm Rescue,  order the October issue of Townhall Magazine.