Farmers using tractors to provide smiles and support communities

Farmers using tractors to provide smiles and support communities
Aug 18, 2023

Two examples of farmers doing good things aside from the good things they already do

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Top photo: One of the tractors in the John Deere parade for Niles Kettner (KMPH photo).

Farmers are known to show up when members of their community need support, and is highlighting a few examples of this.

In Shiocton, Wis., staff at a local hospice facility asked members of Niles Kettner’s family what would make him smile.

Kettner is a retired farmer who loves John Deere. He’s battling both dementia and cancer.

His great-grandchildren told the nurses some green tractors might bring a smile to their grandfather’s face.

That’s when Heidi Tisdale, a nurse case manager at Moments Hospice, took to Facebook to try to organize a John Deere tractor parade.

And from there, the farmers started to volunteer.

In total, about 40 tractors rolled down the street on Aug. 9.

“Never in a million years did I think it was going to be this big,” Emie Phillips, Kettner’s granddaughter, told WTAQ. “I look around and I don’t even know 90% of these people. It’s amazing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who came out to do this for my grandpa today. It means a lot to us all.”

Volunteers were more than happy to participate in the parade.

Some people, like Jodi Mathe, used the parade to pay tribute to family members they’ve lost.

“My Dad and Mom both passed away of cancer,” she said in a Facebook post in response to Tisdale’s tractor request. “They would be so proud that their John Deere Tractors are helping to bring joy to others. It also helps our hearts to share in this experience.”

And in Florence, Ont., Canada, a tractor parade helped raise money for a mental health resource available to farmers and first responders.

Over 70 tractors featured in the first Shifting Gears Tractor Parade to benefit Three Oaks Respite Cabin.

The parade raised more than $32,000 for the retreat, which provides farmers and first responders opportunities to rest, reflect, reorient and reconnect.

Three Oaks Cabin
Three Oaks Cabin (website photo).

“We are humbled and incredibly grateful for such a great turnout,” Brooklyn Stam (Bergsma), one of the event’s organizers, said in a statement, local media reported. “It couldn’t have been such a success without the many sponsors, volunteers, and parade participants! God bless our farmers.”

Other members of the Bergsma family, Diane and Alan, started Three Oaks Respite Cabin following their son Dalles taking his own life in November 2020.

At the time, Dalles was involved in his own farm and serving as a firefighter with the Dawn-Euphemia Volunteer Fire Dept.

“We did not have knowledge of the compounding effect that Farmers face while working in isolation and in dealing with more and more administration requirements from off-farm agencies,” the Three Oaks website says. “We were unaware of the lingering memories and images that can haunt those who put the lives of others first in their role of fire fighters and First Responders.”

Programs at the cabin resort will be designed and led by registered therapists who understand challenges farmers and first responders face.

If you or anyone you know requires mental health support, has a list of available resources.

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