There’s no distance generosity can’t travel. More than seven loads of hay from Minnesota arrived in southwest North Dakota last week, thanks to the generosity of farmers out east. With the hopes of relieving some of the struggles producers in the region has encountered, Ross Aigner discussed taking up a special offering with his church council in Wolverton, Minn., with the intention of using that offering to haul a load of hay to the region. Wolverton is about 20 miles south of Moorhead, Minn.
By COLE BENZ
Aigner is a relative of Grant and Edna Paulson of Bowman and speaks with his family about once a month, so he has been well informed of the drought crisis of the region.
“It was just a conversation at [my] church council,” Aigner said. “I said ‘hey maybe we should take a special offering so I could haul a load of hay [to southwest North Dakota] and help out their church.’”
The hay was given to the Dakota Prairie Lutheran Churches which includes parishes in Amidon (Lebanon Lutheran), Bowman (Bowman Lutheran), and Rhame (First Lutheran, and Bethany Lutheran).
Well word quickly spread to neighbor congregations, and Aigner said they “wanted in on the action.”
The three, close-knit churches included Faith Lutheran (Wolverton, Minn.), Comstock Lutheran (Comstock, Minn.), and Hoff Lutheran (Rustad, Minn.). The generosity spread even further from there. Parishioners from each congregation also belong to the same grain elevator—C-W Valley—and Aigner serves on that board as well. C-W Valley tries to make a significant donation each year, and they decided that this would be their philanthropic gesture this year.
“That’s where it went from one load to seven,” he said.
Aigner didn’t think one little conversation amongst church board members would explode like it did, and when it did, he got a little nervous.
“No, I thought our church would do a load,” he said. “So when it got to seven I got a little nervous, I’ve got load seven loads of hay, that’s going to take me a while.”
But he soon found that help was readily available.
“So many people were willing [to help],” Aigner said.
He said that organizing this whole endeavor wasn’t that difficult when he heard so many people were willing to give their time and energy.
“When I was worried I had to haul seven loads…that didn’t last long,” Aigner said.
So either volunteering to drive a load, or offering equipment the help with the load was Luke Brakke, Richard Lewis, Brad Nelson, Stuart Nichol, and Turner Sand & Gravel.
“I think that’s the farmer/rancher mentality of helping each other out,” he said. Adding that you’d be hard pressed to find another industry that helps out one another. That sentiment could date back to the days of threshing, when one thresher was shared among many farmers and moved from property to property until everyones grain was harvested.
The caravan of six semis full of hay made a stop in Amidon—one driver fell behind the rest of the fleet due to a blown tire—and regrouped with more detailed directions for each truck.
Pastor Mark Nygard said it was site to be seen.
“It was staggering…it was a wall of hay,” he said.
The drivers brought two loads of alfalfa and five loads of straight grass. The crop was given to the parish and each congregation’s board would decided how to disperse it among their members.
Though the distance between the to regions of Wolverton and southwest North Dakota are hundreds of miles apart, Aigner said the people are similar, and that farmers and ranchers are still trying to accomplish the same goal.
“We’re the same stubborn Scandinavians and Germans that are keeping trying to farm, and helping each other out, and what other business would help another fellow businessman out other than agriculture, I don’t know of another one,” he said. “That’s the part that really stands out to me.”
Aigner was also really taken back by the reaction of the people receiving the hay, saying that watching someone moved to tears by the gesture of someone unknown from hundreds of miles away was great.
“To see a 75-year old man so appreciative, he doesn’t need it, but he knows people who do and he’s going to make sure they’re going to get it,” he said. “That was just so cool.”
Nygard saw it as a great partnership between the churches.
“I took it as a sign of heart feeling for one another within our church,” Nygard said. “That was very exciting to me.”
Nygard was very appreciative of the generous donation, and would like to think that those receiving would have the same thoughts for others.
“On behalf of ranchers and herders in our area, I just am very grateful for those folks to the east that had us in our hearts,” he said. “And I would hope that we could have others in our hearts the way they held us in theirs.”