Unexpected help crops up for farmer battling cancer

Rob Dale

With the emotion evident in his voice, Mark Wiegand described the unexpected events at his farm as "unreal."

On Monday morning, Wiegand and his wife were pleasantly surprised to find a fleet of combines rolling in from all over the Goodfield area and onto the grounds of his farm, ready to give him a helping hand at harvesting his crop.

"It's quite a feeling," said Wiegand, visibly taken aback by the gesture, adding that it was "pretty humbling."

The local farmers who banded together came to help a friend in need. Wiegand, who suffers from small-cell lung cancer, will be undergoing chemotherapy this week. That, and a forecast of intermittent rain that could further postpone the harvest, prompted Wiegand's brother, Dave Wiegand, to bring the group together to help wrap up his brother's soybean harvest.

Dave Wiegand had little trouble getting neighbors, friends and relatives to come pitch in.

"They were glad to help," he said of the close-knit local farmers, most of whom are longtime friends.

"They all know each other from the coffee shop."

Mark Wiegand boasts more than 200 acres of soybeans. Five combines were used for the job, with as many as four running at a time, each in different fields surrounding Mark Wiegand's home.

Without the help he received Monday, Mark Wiegand said, the harvest would have taken him "a good week or so."

Other friends and relatives came to the farm to help in another way. After the men had been working in the fields for a few hours, they returned to Mark Wiegand's garage, where a small buffet had been prepared by his sister and others. The meal gave the farmers a chance to rest and enjoy each others' company.

Because of flooding and unusual weather this year, local farmers have had to push back planting season, and therefore the harvest season, several weeks into the fall. Because of this, a well-timed harvest is necessary in order to avoid the onset of frost, which could kill many plants.

Those on hand were somewhat worried about the prospect of rain, which seemed probable. Jim Zehr, a neighbor who's known Mark Wiegand for "15-20 years," said he was glad to help. He brought the fifth combine and was optimistic about the group's abilities.

"Hopefully, we'll get done before it rains," said Zehr, who is not quite done with his own harvest.

Rob Dale can be reached at (309) 686-3251 or