- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A farm aid nonprofit in the Northern Plains that has grown beyond its founder’s dreams is expanding its services again, with an eye toward spreading geographically in a year or two.

Farm Rescue needs to boost its annual budget from $750,000 to $1 million to do that, and it’s finding new ways to raise money, including selling downloads and CDs of a country music tune sung by a North Dakota farmer.

“My Field of Dreams” written by Billy Ray Cyrus’ cousin, Bobby, and sung by Medina farmer-rancher Joe Schmidt is about American farming traditions, which include rural families helping one another. Farm Rescue has been doing that since 2005, with volunteers coming to the aid of farmers stricken by illness, injury or natural disaster.

“You never know who they’re going to help next - it might be you,” Schmidt said.

North Dakota farm boy and UPS pilot Bill Gross started Farm Rescue 10 years ago, to help North Dakota farmers in need with help planting crops. The organization has since branched out to South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and eastern Montana, with services expanding to include harvesting and haying. This year, the organization also is offering hay bale-hauling and grain-hauling services.

“We want to do more things with ranching,” Gross said. “We’re thinking in about a year doing some work with livestock, and this is a precursor.”

Farm Rescue is offering the free hauling services to producers in need and making those services available for hire to anyone, in another effort to generate more income.

Farm Rescue’s base of volunteers has grown through the years to about 1,000 people from around the country, many of whom use vacation time from their regular jobs to help out. Playing a small role in the overall effort is inspiring and rewarding, Schmidt said.

“It says a lot when you’ve got 1,000 people waiting to get their hands dirty,” he said. “It’s fun to be part of something like that.”

His single is available for download through several vendors, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Farm Rescue, and a CD is available for order on the Farm Rescue website. Gross said it hasn’t generated much money yet, but Schmidt said the song is starting to get air time on radio stations in the Dakotas and Nebraska.

Farm Rescue will this year help its 400th family, Gross said, underlining the organization’s expansion at a pace “faster and larger than what I ever envisioned.”

“To see that Farm Rescue has developed into this avenue of goodness, it’s just a wonderful feeling,” he said. “It’s where our country started - helping farm families, people producing food for the entire nation and the world.”

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Online:

Farm Rescue: www.farmrescue.org

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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