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Homegrown Help

Gregg Hillyer
By  Gregg Hillyer , Progressive Farmer Editor-in-Chief
Nick Allen donates sweet corn for Troy, Missouri, FFA Chapter members to distribute to nursing homes and food pantries. From left: Lexi Collins, Emilee Harris, Jacob Love, Grace Rhodes and Kelsey Sachs , Image by Gregg Hillyer

When disaster strikes, help is not far behind. Oftentimes, it’s an army of volunteers that picks up the pieces after a flood, fire, hurricane, tornado or other catastrophe. Many are members of a charitable organization, civic or church group, or myriad other services that mobilize to lend a helping hand. Their efforts garner headlines and accolades, and rightly so.

Growing up on the Cottonwood Dairy Farm, I fondly recall another type of volunteer: the person who quietly worked behind the scenes, scarcely drawing attention to his or her selfless efforts. Many were neighbors who gave freely of their time and talents, never asking for anything in return but whose acts of kindness made immeasurable impressions on this Iowa farm boy.

Some would call it being neighborly. It defines rural America and is a key thread that makes the community fabric strong. Big or small, no act is more important than the next. As Crops Technology Editor Pamela Smith explains, every person has something to give and a way to make a difference.

That’s why Progressive Farmer is launching the Homegrown Hope initiative. We want to recognize ordinary people making extraordinary differences in their communities. You’ll read about some of these individuals in Smith’s story “Pay It Forward.” If you know deserving individuals, send an email to pamela.smith@dtn.com and tell us about them. We may feature them in future issues of the magazine and on dtnpf.com.


Nick Allen, Hawk Point, Missouri, is a prime example of someone who doesn’t seek the spotlight but, in his own way, is making a difference in his community. For several years, he has raised a 1/2- to 3/4-acre patch of sweet corn. Allen’s son, Kyle, purchases the seed and fertilizer, and local FFA alumni Adam Leek plants it. Members of the Troy FFA Chapter harvest the crop, shuck and clean it, then donate the fresh, tasty treat to Lincoln County nursing homes and food pantries.

Allen asks for nothing in return. “It’s something I just like to do,” he says matter-of-factly, quickly brushing away any attention to himself. “The people who receive the sweet corn love it, and the FFA kids learn important life lessons.”

Statistics on serving others in rural America are limited. But, as Smith points out in her story, the 2018 “Volunteering in America” report found that some 30% of adults volunteered through an organization last year. The report also implies millions more are supporting family and friends (43%), and doing favors for their neighbors (51%), suggesting many are engaged in acts of “informal volunteering.”

Farmers and ranchers are no strangers when it comes to offering a helping hand. Our goal for Homegrown Hope is to celebrate and salute community gestures such as Nick Allen’s, and spur similar efforts in your neighborhoods.


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