Farmers unite to help neighbor harvest

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A farmer stands on a semi truck, watching combines harvest.
Wayne County farmer Brian Graser waits for a combine to come back to the truck. Graser was one of several farmers from eight farms who arrived to help their neighbors, the Renneckers, of Four Winds Farm, harvest Nov. 4 after they lost their house to a fire. (Sarah Donkin photo)

SMITHVILLE, Ohio — Brian Studer, of Myrtle Farms, has about 210 acres left to harvest this season. Some of his neighbors have more.

But when owners and workers from eight farms in Wayne County fired up their combines Monday morning, they weren’t headed to their own fields. They were harvesting about 150 acres for the Rennecker family, who recently lost their house in a fire.

House fire

The call for the fire went out on Oct. 30 at 4:14 a.m. Andy Beery, of Big Buck Harvesting, a neighbor and farmer, was one of the firefighters who responded. Five fire departments showed up.

According to Beery, it took three hours to get the fire under control, and even then, “it was a complete loss.”

The cause of the fire is undetermined so far. While the house was mostly lost, there were no injuries.

“The important thing is, it’s mostly stuff,” Brian Rennecker said. “No lives were lost.”

The Renneckers are dairy and grain farmers. Their farm, Four Winds Farm, is in Smithville, Ohio. They use most of the grain they harvest to feed their dairy cows.

Response

After responding to the fire, Beery knew he had to help. Studer said Beery called him the morning it happened and suggested getting a team together to harvest for the Renneckers.

By that weekend, they had organized with Gasser Farms, Ream Farms, Donny and Dennis Ramsier, Aaron Long, Kyle Lennacher and Willow Tree Dairy, all Wayne County farmers, to bring four combines, six gravity wagons, three semi trucks, two straight trucks and two grain carts to the Renneckers’ fields.

“It’s been all hands on deck,” Beery said. “We’re just a close-knit community.”

The local Centerra Co-op agreed to dry the grain for free. “If the tables were turned, you know everybody would do the same for everybody else here,” Studer said.

Rubble

While their neighbors helped harvest, the Renneckers worked on salvaging what they could from the house.

“We’re still digging through the rubble. Sometimes we find something,” Brian Rennecker said. “It’s kind of nice.”

They have also received support from their church family at Smithville Brethren Church.

“I think I have more clothes now than I did before,” Rennecker said.

He said the driveway at his in-law’s house, where they’ve been staying, has been like a highway. Friends and neighbors keep stopping in to ask what they can do to help.

“It’s very humbling to realize … you can never in your lifetime repay all the gifts and support,” Rennecker said. “It’s a perfect example of what God did for us.”

A house after a fire.
While the Renneckers’ house was lost, they were able to salvage some things from it. No one was injured in the fire. (Sarah Donkin photo)

Third time

This isn’t the first time the Renneckers have received help in tough times. Brian Rennecker’s wife, Heidi, was in a bad accident years ago and spent five months in the hospital. While she recovered, friends and neighbors helped Brian and the rest of the family keep the dairy farm running.

Years before that, their milking parlor caught fire. With the help of friends and neighbors, the parlor was ready for milking again the morning after the fire.

“We worked all night,” Rennecker recalled. “So this is the third time. I hope this is it.”

While most of the farmers helping the Renneckers still have their own crops to harvest, they decided to put them off.

“It’ll be there when we get done helping these guys that are in need,” Beery said.

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Reporter Sarah Donkin is a former 4-Her and a Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio. She enjoys playing and writing music, cooking, and storytelling in many forms. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.

3 COMMENTS

  1. So very good to see farmers helping farmers. Wayne Co Ohio is a great place to live!
    Thank you for printing this encouraging story :-)

  2. When I was a kid all the neighbors got together at harvest and helped each other with their harvest.the women would get together and prepare virtual food feast for lunch and dinner,its was a much better time I think.

  3. I love reading the stories where neighbors come together to help neighbors.There are a lot of wonderful people in this world!!

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