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Published April 24, 2012, 11:30 PM

Volunteers help plant crops for Ulen family coping with cancer

ULEN, Minn. – With his wife battling cancer and five children to look out for – the youngest of whom is 2 years old – Matt Klemetson has a lot more to worry about than planting corn.

ULEN, Minn. – With his wife battling cancer and five children to look out for – the youngest of whom is 2 years old – Matt Klemetson has a lot more to worry about than planting corn.

On Tuesday, a few neighbors and friendly strangers stopped by to help pick up the slack.

Four volunteers from Farm Rescue took on the job of planting 300 acres of corn at Klemetson’s farm, freeing him up for a hospital visit with his family. They’ll also plant 300 acres of soybeans.

The Klemetsons are one of about 40 to 50 families the organization helps each year. Based in Jamestown, N.D., Farm Rescue operates in Minnesota, the Dakotas and eastern Montana.

Bill Gross, Farm Rescue founder and president, said it gets families through rough times, alleviates the burden on neighbors, and helps local economies by keeping farmers from going out of business.

Gross, a pilot by trade, was on-site Tuesday. He doesn’t get to all Farm Rescue outings, but attends as many as possible.

Some families, like the Klemetsons, apply for help themselves. At other times, friends and neighbors reach out on their behalf.

“Oftentimes, farm families have a difficult time asking for help,” Gross said. “They’re pretty independent people, used to working on their own.”

A handful of local supporters joined volunteers from out of state Tuesday. A group of women from a local church brought lunch, snacks and refreshments.

Kenneth Chyle, a first-time volunteer this year, traveled 1,100 miles from Kentucky to get here.

Chyle, a retired farmer, said it’s rewarding to give back.

“It’s just about being able to help,” he said.

Levi Wielenga, a railroad conductor from Sioux City, Iowa, carved a week out his work schedule last year to volunteer, and took more time this year.

“This is right up my alley,” said Wielenga, who grew up on a farm. He came here with his wife, Carol, and their 6-month-old son, Lincoln. They’ve been on a volunteering swing to several farms over the past few days.

“It’s in my blood. I love farming. I love serving God and serving people and helping out,” he said. “As long as they don’t call me back to work, I’m going to stay up here and play farm.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502

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