Heartfelt Harvest

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heartfelt harvest

Photo by Luke Sullivan

An observer thought awhile and said the “Farmer’s Creed” summarized the reason for the scene. A total of 12 combines, 12 auger carts, 20 trucks and their operators worked by their heart’s desire on donated fuel, donated food and even donated technician labor, if needed. Farm families voluntarily pulled away from their own harvests to pick corn for the family of Peoria County farmer Randy Kingdon.

Randy died of cancer at age 60 on Sept. 15th, 18 days ahead of the community harvest that he knew would gather his final corn crop. His wife and father observed the scene that day with the feeling that Randy was watching. Usually, Randy cuts the beans. His father Frank picks the corn. The opposite would run the auger cart. That day, Frank watched other combine-and-cart duos rapidly harvest one of their Brimfield farm’s best corn crops. “There is no way I can repay them except to thank them,” Frank said as he squelched emotion.

Gratifying. Powerful. Sad. The day gave perspective to any farmer’s troublesome harvest day. The effort passed the weight of empathy to farm families near or far who heard the story. And the community harvest shaped a remarkable and moving scene. Multiple combines per field rapidly gathered rows of corn, driven by the satisfaction of knowing they could help.

Across the state, you occasionally hear stories about a community coming together to harvest for a farmer in need. Local farmer Ralph Peters, the day’s volunteer coordinator, has helped injured farmers with harvest before. But, this is his first volunteer harvest dedicated to a farmer who planted a crop and passed before he could gather it. Ralph emphasized “volunteer,” and so did his wife who coordinated the harvest meal. They didn’t ask for help.

When word spread about the community harvest, the Peters family received more calls to help than there were jobs to do. From table service and pie to fuel and semi-trucks, local farms and businesses covered everything. The volunteers even moved up the harvest date to Oct. 3rd to beat a forecasted three-day rain event.

Frank saw the effort as a testament to his son, who more than once was noted as a pillar of the community among the crowd that gathered to help or watch. Randy was committed to Whitney’s Walk and St. Jude. He had served as president of the active area Men’s Club that installs wheelchair ramps around town, organizes the community’s festival, donated a park to the community and much more.

Fellow farmers halted their own harvests that day out of a sense of duty. This is what small communities do in times of need, they say. And Randy was their friend. The day ended with a meal of fried chicken, pulled pork, sides, and homemade pies for the harvest crew. The volunteers gathered around tables at Ralph’s farmhouse to celebrate the heartfelt harvest – and subconsciously, the creed they personify.

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