When it comes to taking care of their own, Britton might do it best.
It’s been a difficult fall for the Zuehlke family, but thanks to some very generous neighbors in northeast South Dakota, the harvest is one less thing they have to worry about.
“It’s been breathtaking, utterly amazing to see how this community has pulled together,” said Laura Peterson, a farm marketing consultant at Hurley & Associates Agri-Marketing in Britton. “It truly is an ‘it takes a village’ type mentality.”
Britton-Hecla junior quarterback Trevor Zuehlke has been recovering at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls since suffering a serious head injury during an Oct. 18 game at Warner.
Zuehlke’s family has remained at his side throughout the process, sharing any new information on CaringBridge, an online social network that allows family members and loved ones to provide updates on medical conditions and others to send messages of support or make donations.
It’s meant that Kurt Zuehlke, Trevor’s father, hasn’t been able to give the harvest his full, undivided attention.
So, the community came to the rescue.
“It’s small town America,” said Nate Dinger, one of more than three dozen farmers who showed up to help. “It’s just one of them things. You just join hands and do it together.”
It all started from a Facebook post from Denver Nickeson, who asked on Nov. 21 if anyone would be willing to support him in finishing up the Zuehlke farm harvest. The response was quick and copious — almost more than Nickeson could keep up with.
“The power of social media kind of stepped in there,” he said. “It was great.”
Peterson helped organize much of what Nickeson couldn’t from the field, such as coordinating meals and funneling contributions. Like most in the Britton community, Peterson knows the Zuehlkes personally and jumped at the chance to get involved.
“They’re a wonderful family,” she said. “They would be the first ones to lend a hand and offer help.”
It took 16 semis, six combines, four grain carts and countless pickup trucks to harvest nearly 600 acres of corn over two days. Nickeson estimates about 30 people worked in the field over the weekend, but that’s not even close to the actual amount that reached out to him offering assistance, he said.
Some donated machinery, others donated food. But the generosity extended far beyond northeast South Dakota — Nickeson said he had one farmer from Wisconsin call to contribute fuel for the effort.
The local elevator also got involved, offering to dry the Zuehlke corn free of charge. The gesture is especially significant considering how much moisture the area has gotten since last year’s snowy winter.
“For farmers, their mind instantly goes to helping with the crop,” Peterson said. “And with this year being the struggle it has been, (the elevator) really pulled through in a way that will be hugely helpful for them.”
Seeing how everyone came together is a good reminder that when it comes to life, the good always outweighs the bad, she said.
“That’s just what rural America is about,” she said. “It truly shows that the small own is one big family.”
“Every guy I talked to said it just gave them goosebumps to see how cool it was,” Nickeson said. “They all said it was the most fun they’ve ever had harvesting in the field.”
It didn’t take long for word to reach the Zuehlkes in Sioux Falls, who were blown away by the display of charity.
“Back home, numerous people teamed up today to help harvest a bunch of corn for us. Teamwork is the thing Trevor loves the most about the things he enjoys doing, whether it’s sports or hunting with buddies or working in groups. What happened today will make Trevor so proud and happy, to see so many people working together for a common goal and accomplish so much,” Kurt Zuehlke wrote in a Nov. 22 CaringBridge post.
“I don’t have the words to thank everyone who participated, but from the videos I saw, it took a village of people to pull it all off, from the operators to the food providers to the fuel suppliers to the traffic directors to the mechanics and everyone in between. It is awesome to see the roles of everyone come together to operate as one. Trevor will love it! Thank you so very much!”
The Zuehlkes hope to transfer Trevor to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., as soon as the move is authorized by their insurance company, according to Caring-Bridge.
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