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Farmers harvest neighbor’s crops after loss of parents

Jan Shepel
Correspondent
A blue sky provides a perfect backdrop for a combine and grain cart moving across a field in southern Wisconsin where a group of farmers reached out to help bring in the harvest for a family suffering a double loss this year.

ALBANY – The weather cleared perfectly on October 6 for combining soybeans in southern Wisconsin and for a group of farmers it was also the perfect day to help out neighbors who lost both of their parents this year.

Six combines, four grain carts and at least six semis showed up early in the morning on Tuesday to harvest and haul the soybean crop for the farming operation known as Glenn-Ann Holsteins – the farm run by Tony Brewer, his sister Tracy Brewer with help from their sister Tammy Behnke and her husband.

The three siblings lost their dad Glenn to cancer in February and their mom Joann died in September, also from cancer.

Heather Golz, a crop insurance specialist with State Bank of Cross Plains, said she has known the family since she first moved to the area from Iowa. Then, she worked with both Tammy and Tracy in farm lending and she said Glenn and Joann welcomed her like family. Their warmth and goodwill was always known in the community.

She helped organize the work day to help the family. “We got some perfect weather and tons of volunteers. Lots of people stopped by just to see the action and give their condolences,” Golz said.

Neighbors got together in the Albany/Brooklyn area to help out a farm family who lost their father and mother in short order this year, after both battled cancer. Six combines, several grain carts and grain-hauling trucks were on hand to make short work of the Brewer family’s soybean crop. Then more friends raked and baled the stalks for bedding.

It was remarkable, she added, because it was the first really good day for harvesting grain and many of the volunteers skipped their own fields to come by and help the Brewers. “This is truly a family farm. They enjoy being together as a family and it’s hard because Glenn and Joann aren’t here.”

Golz has worked with the family for years on crop insurance and was more than happy to help organize the volunteers and bring a field lunch for the assembled crew. But it didn’t take much effort. “You know this is a long-time, well-known, respected family when everybody wants to bring a combine or grain cart or truck to haul the grain. All we had to do was put out the word and people responded.” She worked with the family’s seed dealer, Loren Klitzman, to organize the event.

Pioneer, his seed company, brought several drones to document the event. To see the drone footage by Pioneer visit https://bit.ly/2GKcqM2.

Six combines, four grain carts and at least six semis showed up early last week to harvest and haul the soybean crop for Glenn-Ann Holsteins – run by Tony Brewer, his sister Tracy Brewer with help from their sister Tammy Behnke and her husband. The siblings lost both parents this year to cancer.

Golz said when people heard about the event they reached out to her and wanted to do whatever they could. She wanted to make sure the word got out on this event because it shows the goodness of people involved in farming and tells a story about caring and concern.

Klitzman said the Brewers are long-time customers of his and he’s a neighbor and lifelong friend of the family. “They are purebred Holstein breeders and have always done a lot for Holstein youth and the community – FFA Alumni and youth groups. It was an easy choice to organize something like this for these people,” he told us.

“Glenn and Joann were workaholics and it really hurts when someone who’s so energetic is suddenly gone,” he said. “We just really wanted to do something for them since they’ve done so much for others.”

Loren Klitzman

There were six combines working the 180 acres of soybeans just down the road from the family’s farmstead on Tuesday and Klitzman said they had to “turn some guys down” who also wanted to come.

After the combines worked their way through the fields, semi trucks hauled the grain to a local elevator and several neighbors went to work with rakes and round balers to put up the soybean stalks for bedding. In just a few hours the fields went from standing beans to round bales of bedding.

Klitzman said all the volunteers came from within a 10-mile radius of the Brewers’ farm. “They all wanted to know ‘what can we do?’ or ‘when were you thinking of doing this?’” Klitzman said. “Three weeks ago we picked this date and the weather has been terrible until yesterday and today.

“It’s neat to see these guys here when they have their own crops to do,” he added.

Daughter Tracy Brewer called the day “amazing and bittersweet” and said she and her family were thankful, “but it reminds you why everyone is here” – because her parents are gone.

Tracy Brewer, left, and her brother Tony Brewer and sister Tammy Behnke were grateful this week when neighbors and friends volunteered their equipment and time to harvest 180 acres of soybeans on their farm. The event was organized after the three lost both of their parents to cancer in less than a year.

“We are so grateful for everybody who showed up today but also for all the help they have offered all year.” She said they have had people bringing them food and helping with tasks at the farm like unloading small bales of hay or hauling loads in.

“Everybody has their own work to do and we are so grateful that they chose to come here and help us,” Tracy said.

Her sister Tammy commented that the day was one of “overwhelming emotion. We are very grateful. It’s been a tough year but we have had a lot of help all year from a lot of wonderful people.”

Tammy, a tax specialist with Compeer Financial, and her husband have both been working from home since the pandemic hit. In their spare time they have done all they can to help her sister and brother, who are both full-time at the farm.

“When we called, people just said ‘what do you need?’ or ‘what can we do to help? “The farming community is really wonderful. When we don’t even know we need help people are there to help us.

“We had really good parents who raised us to want to help others. They’re not here today but in their place are some very wonderful people,” Tammy added.