Farm community pulls together to complete the harvest
December 15, 2020 | Bethany Baratta
The only thing certain about 2020 was uncertainty.
Markets were erratic, severe weather in some places scorched and pummeled soybean and corn fields. All of that happened amid a global pandemic. Despite all of this, farmers did what they do best: they showed up. And when tragedy struck the town of Lacona, farmers showed up.
Nearly 50 farmers in south-central Iowa put their harvests on hold this fall to help a family grieving the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and respected farmer.
Clint Bauer, of Lacona, died as a result of a farming accident in October. He was 65 and left behind his wife Janet, sons Brandon and Nathan, and their families.
A farm community mourns
“Clint was the kind of guy who didn’t get highly stressed,” says Jory Hunerdosse, who, by happenstance, became the harvest coordinator for the hundreds of soybean and corn acres left to harvest. “He took each day at a time and did the best he could.”
There wasn’t a formal phone call to the farming community inviting them to be a part of Clint’s harvest, says Hunerdosse, who knew Clint since they were teenagers.
“My phone just started ringing.”
Some farmers knew Clint as their mechanic, others as the guy who announced high school softball games. Some knew of Clint by the farmer wave as they were headed opposite directions on rural roads.
Fifty farmers provided combines, auger wagons, trucks and expertise to bring in the crops remaining in the south-central Iowa fields. The community took care of Clint’s harvest as if they owned those acres themselves.
“We’re grieving alongside the family and want to undo what happened, but we know we can’t,” says Hunerdosse, an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) member. “So now, it’s about harvesting the best crop we can and doing our best for this family.”
ISA District 8 Director Randy Miller knew Clint as a farmer and parent watching his kid’s Little League team years ago. When he heard of Clint’s untimely death, he also offered his assistance.
“We all farm and want to rent the next piece of ground, but at the end of the day, it’s not about that,” Miller says. “It’s about supporting this family in their time of need. This is what rural Iowa and small-town community is like.”
Clint’s sons, Brandon and Nathan, were overwhelmed by the support from the community.
“Seeing the people and the massive amount of machinery helping us and not asking for a thing in return is impressive and uplifting,” says Brandon, a lieutenant for the Dubuque Police Department.
“It’s absolutely been amazing what the community has done to support us,” says Nathan, a special education associate for the Southeast Warren Community School District.
Also appreciated are the stories of their father. Some shared stories of their conversations with Clint at the Medora Store with a Diet Mountain Dew and Almond Joy in hand. Others recall phone calls Clint made everyone he knew to sing, “Happy Birthday” on their special day. Many shared stories of gathering in Clint’s shop over a broken-down piece of machinery.
Dream come true
“He was my mechanic on speed dial,” Hunerdosse says.
He recalls a visit to Clint’s machine shop while working on a tractor with a hydraulic leak.
“It could have been a relatively quick fix,” Hunerdosse recalls, “but it wasn’t up to Clint’s standards, so he ended up taking everything apart and overhauling the transmission.”
It was akin to the care Clint took of the farms he rented and farmed.
“His fields were clean, and his farm was mowed and tidy,” Miller says.
Clint worked with landlords to get buffer strips installed around the creeks and terraces on hillier fields. He was a role model to farmers just getting started, often serving as a sounding board to get advice on machinery or farming practices. His love of farming was cultivated in high school while serving as the Future Farmers of America president and working on a nearby farm. After high school he was awarded a scholarship for diesel mechanic at Lincoln Tech in Des Moines. Later, he married Janet, and they purchased their farm in April 1986.
“It was at this farm where they truly settled roots and his lifelong dream of being a farmer came true,” Brandon says.
With favorable weather this year (98% of the Iowa soybean harvest was completed by Nov. 9) the community finished the harvest faster than Clint had in previous years.
Brandon and Nathan say their father’s harvest was sometimes delayed by family events, which were a priority.
“As hard as he worked, he always made sure he was there for his family,” Brandon says.
“He always made the joke that God made headlights on tractors for a reason,” Nathan says.
Clint would turn a wrench on anything, but he had his favorites: Olivers and Whites (which would later become AgCo).
Nathan says it’s because his dad favored the underdog. Hunerdosse says his friend’s preference wasn’t the tractor, but the Detroit motors in the equipment.
“If you asked him, they were the most powerful,” Hunerdosse says. They were also one of the loudest, he recalls.
Harvesting Clint’s crops, Miller says, was a celebration of the kind of guy — and farmer — Clint was.
A few days this harvest, when the weather and their job schedules aligned, Nathan and Brandon fired up their dad’s favorite machines to help finish a harvest he started.
The 9720 White combine and the 1950 Oliver, with a Detroit diesel, led the way.
This story was originally published in the December 2020 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.
Click the brackets in the bottom right corner to view the magazine in full screen.