Community rallies to harvest late farmer's fields
MERNA, NE -- When needed most, Nebraskan’s know how to step up, but no one does it better than those from small communities. Custer County had the opportunity to step up and help a family who needed it most after one of their own passed unexpectedly.
Patrick Downy, a farmer and lifelong member of the Merna community, died at the age of 54 on September 10, right before the beginning of fall harvest. As harvest moved forward, the nearly 1,500 acres of ready to be harvested crops remained untouched.
It would not stay that way for long. A job that would have taken one combine 15 days to complete, only took the small army of farmers one day.
Area farmers organized a mass harvest that involved nearly 100 people, around eleven combines, 50 trucks, and 12-15 grain carts.
“If somebody else was having trouble today Pat would have been here today, guarantee it with his combine and outfit. He would have been right here with everyone else,” said John Smith who helped organize the harvest day. “This is what we do in Custer County.”
The massive event kicked off first thing in the morning on Saturday, November 9 with the massive crews spread out across Custer County, ranging from Broken Bow to Anselmo.Trucks lined multiple streets in Merna to unload the harvested corn.
John Blakeman, one of the local farmers and organizers of the harvest day, said, “Pat was a great friend and neighbor to everybody that is helping today. My wife and him and his wife spent countless hours together of the last 30 years. We had a lot of fun and meant a lot to me personally.”
Area businesses also helped support the event with food, equipment, etc. Businesses and individuals that donated include: Country Partners Cooperative, Ag West Commodities, Bryan Frannsen-DeKalb Seed, Casey Cooksley- DeKalb Seed, Nebraska State Bank, Plains Equipment, Grocery Kart, Gateway Motors, Roy Yanagida, Shannon Cooksley, Anderson Group, Central Nebraska Insurance Agency, Heather Callahan, and Gary’s Super Foods.
Blakeman said when the idea got out, people were calling him to donate their time, wanting to help in anyway possible. Both Blakeman and Smith noted that there was nothing more impressive than seeing the huge number of people step forward and wanting to volunteer their time and equipment.
“Unbelievable. I am proud of where I live,” said Blakeman.