Farmers understand one thing: The crops must be harvested, no matter what. In Indiana recently, farmers gathered to help one grieving neighbor bring in his corn crop after the unthinkable happened.
Corn and wheat farmers have their struggles this year. The harvest for 2016 will not be memorable or profitable, Jason Newton, owner of Richards Elevator in Taylorsville, told therepublic.com the day after Thanksgiving. Record bumper crops have supplied an abundance of product to consumers at the grocery store, so farmers are not making much on wheat and corn crops.
“This tragedy didn’t have to ‘bring out the best’ in these friends and neighbors — that is just who they are.”
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That’s why even a sudden tragedy doesn’t stop the combines from rolling.
Steve Wollyung, of Connorsville, Indiana, was getting ready to harvest his last 112 acres on Nov. 5 when his four-year-old granddaughter Ayla, who was playing in a grain wagon, became trapped. After first responders removed her from the wagon, she was airlifted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, but did not survive.
Tara Henry, a longtime friend of the Wollyung family, heard about the tragedy the next day. She phoned Wollyung’s wife, Carmen, and asked if they were done harvesting, local news station Fox 59 reported. Carmen Wollyung responded that they still had over 100 acres to bring in — and didn’t know how they were going to do it.
Henry got on the phone with a few farmers who had already harvested their own crops and asked if they’d be willing to lend a hand. In no time, over 60 people from several counties told Henry that they wanted to donate their time and equipment to help the stricken family.
The small army of farmers with their combines, semis, and grain carts gathered on Saturday, Nov. 12. The group said a prayer — and then began working their neighbor’s fields. Those who couldn’t help in the fields donated sandwiches, soup, snacks, and drinks.
“This is not surprising at all,” John Brubaker, a long-haul trucker from Hampton, Iowa, told LifeZette. “I know plenty of farmers — and good times or bad, they are there for each other. This tragedy didn’t have to ‘bring out the best’ in these friends and neighbors — that is just who they are.”
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw everyone show up to help,” Steve Wollyung told Fox 59. “All of the support and the number of people wanting to help is just overwhelming. It was emotional to see everyone. Whatever we needed, they brought.”
Working together, the group finished harvesting 18,463 bushels by about 5 p.m. that day. Wollyung said it would have taken him about a week to do the work all on his own.
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After the harvest was finished, things got emotional.
“There were lots of tears, and it felt so good to help them,” Henry told Fox 59. “They are a wonderful family. And with all the turmoil in the world right now, it felt so good to witness this. Unfortunately, I wish the help didn’t have to come because of this tragedy, but it just shows how much everyone values Steve, and how close this community is. We all know Steve would drop everything to help us — and this shows everyone else doing the same for him.”
Nathan Williamson showed up at the farm with his semi to help haul the grain. He said the high turnout is just a reflection of the person Steve Wollyyung is.
“He’s a very honest, stand-up guy, and just a good community member,” Williamson said. “I was talking with some other people at the farm and we all seem to agree that the worst things happen to the best people.”
Williamson told Fox 59 that such an effort is typical of the farming community. “Most farmers look out for each other and would do that for anyone.”
“The Fayette County area is often looked down on because the unemployment rate is high and there’s no money,” Wollyung said. “But this truly shows the people in [Fayette, Wayne, and Union counties] will drop everything to help their neighbors in times of need.”