Helping just because they can

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, June 26, 2010

School buses brought volunteers Saturday morning to help pick debris out of fields so farmers can replant and maybe still salvage a crop this year.

The Freeborn County Red Cross and county firefighters organized groups for Saturday and Sunday to help farmers who can’t clean up everything themselves after the June 17 tornado outbreak. Many fields are filled with metal, wood and other debris that was picked up by strong winds.

“Farmers have been calling saying they need help picking fields,” Red Cross Administrative Assistant Chris Avery said.

Email newsletter signup

She said many people have been wanting to volunteer to help those whose properties have been affected by the recent tornadoes. Organizing this cleanup effort was the best way to let people help and to help those affected as well.

The Red Cross is concerned about helping get fields clear so they can be replanted. Some area farmers have said that if soybeans are planted before the beginning of July they will still have a good chance of growing well.

“We’re going to the Hartland area, Manchester area, Freeborn area and Conger area,” Avery said.

Chuck Karl, president of the Freeborn County Fire Association and fire chief of Albert Lea Township Fire Department, said farmers are reaching their limits for how much work they can do themselves in the fields.

“It’s becoming overwhelming,” Karl said. “The corn’s gotten so tall we might have to walk every other row.”

He said walking the fields and picking out debris is a time-consuming job. He’s hopeful that many people will keep volunteering because of the amount of disaster areas in the county.

“The farmers just need a little more help,” Karl said. “It’s such a huge swath of debris everywhere.”

The volunteers met at Hammer Field in the morning on Saturday and Sunday to be bused out to areas affected by the tornadoes. The use of three buses was donated by the Albert Lea Bus Company.

Karl said some fields lost all the crops and farmers need the debris removed so they can replant soybeans before the end of the month. Other fields still have their crops but need any debris out so they can keep growing. Because of the amount of rain on Friday night, if the fields were too wet in the morning crews were going to help individual homes.

The crew that went to the Hartland area Saturday morning was helping pick up trees and debris from the roads because of the high winds and hail the town received. One Albert Lea resident said he wanted to volunteer because he used to live out by Conger.

“I just want to help,” Del Johnson said.

His thoughts were echoed by other volunteers Saturday morning. Before they left almost 50 volunteers had signed in and were waiting for assignments. The Red Cross was ready with water and two meals for all the volunteers. They hoped to get into the fields but with Friday’s rains the plan may have changed.

“We’re going to try to get into the fields,” Avery said. “There was a lot of damage in Hartland and Clarks Grove.”