My Generation
One Day: One Thousand Acres

One Day: One Thousand Acres

An Illinois community came together this week to harvest their neighbor's crop. Here, a look at the kind of sowing and reaping that doesn't involve a crop.

Farmers in the greater Avon, Ill., area could not have asked for a more beautiful harvest day yesterday. Crisp, clear air, the bluest sky, not a cloud in sight. Dry. Virtually ideal for harvest.

And that they did, to the tune of 1,000 acres and more than 100 people. Plus: 12 combines, 10 auger wagons and 20 semis. Spread across 13 miles. Give or take.

This harvest crew descended for the day as farm communities often do when someone needs a hand. Keith and Gary Rohrer were brothers who'd farmed together for more than 30 years, raising their families just east of Avon with their wives, Pat and Berta, respectively. Keith, just 67, died suddenly last summer, and Gary has been in poor health.

Avon farmers Gary Rohrer and David Tolley assess both the harvest plan for the rest of the day, and the bean yields.

Their neighbor, David Tolley, recalls a single day a year ago, when his own father was sick with cancer. The river bottom was flooded and he was overwhelmed. That day, Gary and Keith pulled in with their equipment to help. "It was a huge relief," Dave recalled. And it was a no-brainer to help Gary and Keith's family this fall.

"Keith and Gary helped so many of these people over the years…it's just payback," he explained.

Like a lot of farmers, Keith was also incredibly involved in the community. He'd been vice president of the Fulton County Farm Bureau, he was on the Soil and Water board, he served on Farm Credit and FS boards, and he was a big part of the Avon Lions Club. He was a township trustee and was president of the Avon Fat Steer Show, which, as you might just imagine, is a very big deal in Avon.

A quick morning photo, before dispersing to the fields. Note: even more people showed up throughout the day. Photo by Darla Pittman, Western Grain Marketing.

All these and more helped make the Rohrer harvest day go a little more smoothly: the Farm Bureau and the Fairview Café put on lunch at one location; Wyffels, Farm Credit, Tompkins State Bank and the Main Street Café put on lunch at another location, served by Lions Club members. And I'll have you know, there was pie at both locations. The kind of pie you only get from either a small town café or your grandma.

One sober observation has stuck with me all day, though. In a conversation about the yields, Avon farmer Jim Lock – a neighbor across the field – nodded his head and said, "You know, this is the kind of crop you wait all your life for. Keith planted it, but he didn't get to harvest it."

It's all so very true. It makes me want to appreciate what we have this year a little more; we're young(ish)…this may not happen again, right? But it also makes me think of the beauty in a harvest where Keith Rohrer may not have harvested the seeds he planted, but his family felt – and reaped – the benefits of the life he'd lived.

Surrounded by friends, family and a good lunch, two of Keith Rohrer's daughters, Nikki Beard and Brook Schafer with son Remington, came home for the day.

'Rural America at Its Best': Part two to this story takes a look at the community that made this harvest happen, and includes more photos and audio of the day. Many thanks to Bill Kurtz, West Central FS, for the UAV aerial footage!  

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