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Wisconsin farmers harvest crops of neighbor hospitalized with Covid-19

By Natalie Shepherd

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    SHEBOYGAN COUNTY, Wisconsin (WDJT) — When a Sheboygan County farmer got Covid-19, his neighbors did what any good friends would do. They put aside some of their own work to harvest his crops when he was hospitalized.

“I appreciate it, I really do,” Dave Obbink said to the crowd of famers who gathered in a field in Cedar Grove.

Obbink knows he has a lot to be thankful for, including good friends and his health.

“My wife and daughter said it’s time to go and I said yeah, it is,” he said of the decision to go the hospital when he got Covid-19.

That was back in October. Obbink was hospitalized, with most of his crops still in his fields.

That’s also when his neighbors stepped in to help.

“Everybody knows Dave,” said farmer Jeff DeRuyter. “Dave’s a constant in the community and we heard that he was sick and needed some help.”

And help they did. Seventeen farmers put their own harvest on hold to bring in Obbink’s soy beans and corn.

For Obbink, it’s still a mystery who started it.

“Nobody will say they got it together, because they would never take credit for anything,” Obbink said.

But DeRuyter said so many hands on deck made it easy work.

“It was the quickest I’ve ever seen that many acres come off in an amount of time,” DeRuyter recalled.

Retired farmer Bob Caljouw pitched in, too.

“I had a blast. It was just fun,” Caliouw said with a laugh. “I think about 44,000 bushels of corn were harvested for Dave that day. About 200 acres worth.”

It also turned out to be a sight to behold in Cedar Grove.

“There’s another combine. There’s a red one. There’s a green one, and all of a sudden there’s six combines,” Obbink said.

DeRuyter said it stopped traffic.

“There were cars that would slow down and stop on the side of the road just to watch for a little while,” he said.

All of those combines lined up, side by side, but then there were also all of the other people and machines needed to get the job done.

“They took off 200 acres in a day with six-seven combines and semis, and grain carts and wagons, and got guys that just came out of the woodwork to bail me out and to help with this,” Obbink said.

“There was probably 68 people, different people, hauling corn to the dryer,” Caliouw added.

Obbink made it home from four days in the hospital to watch them bring in the corn.

“I just sat there on the couch, sitting on the arm of the couch looking, and the tears were just running down my face. I said, I can’t believe these guys would do this,” he remembered.

But the way they see it — how could they not? It is what neighbors do.

“Everybody’s known everybody their whole lives. Like I said, I grew up here, only about a mile and a half, two miles away from where we are now. Known Dave and everybody behind me here my whole life,” DeRuyter said.

They know Obbink would do it for them, too.

That’s how he’d rather have it.

“They said, well, that’s what we do. I said, I know, but it’s easier to do it than to have it done for you,” Obbink said.

But the farmers said it wasn’t all work.

“It was a lot of fun to be able to get together with everybody and work that way together, and it makes a guy feel good that we can help someone out who needs it,” DeRuyter said.

Obbink says he’s slowly recovering from his bout with Covid.

He’ll be there to lend a helping hand the next time.

“Everybody in this community and this area, you know they’re going to be there if you need it,” DeRuyter said.

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