Burgers, of Niles, brought a big planter to put in Waldschmidt’s corn and soybean crops May 10. Leader photo/JOHN EBY
Burgers, of Niles, brought a big planter to put in Waldschmidt’s corn and soybean crops May 10. Leader photo/JOHN EBY

Archived Story

Plant it forward

Published 11:41am Friday, May 10, 2013

The Waldschmidts were there when Jim Mesko suffered a heart attack in 1991.

So with Ben Waldschmidt hospitalized, recuperating from triple bypass surgery Monday, Mesko returned the favor.

In fact, about 25 people, representing 10 farms in Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg and Niles, turned out Friday morning to plant it forward.

Getting off to a slow start because of rain, they congregated on Pokagon Highway near Anderson Road for some tailgating with coffee and doughnuts delivered by Community Mills.

Later, Bob Cox was bringing pizza as the friends and neighbors planted 500 acres of corn and soybeans.

Visions of planters shoulder to shoulder, filling the horizon, were dashed by the reality of modern farming.

Fields are so spread out that some, like Bob Guse, were already at work at remote locations.

Waldschmidt lives closest to Dowagiac, on Wilbur Hill Road.

“We’ve got at least six big planters working his fields,” Mesko said. “There are some down toward Pokagon, some over toward Dowagiac, some toward Anderson Road. It will be mostly south, north and west of here. It would take him 10 days to two weeks to get all done. Last year we were way ahead” with summer weather in March.

“This year, it’s almost a little bit the other way. It’s been cold all April. We’re a little late, but May 10 is good,” Mesko said.

Mesko’s son-in-law, Kevin Hershberger, from north of Cassopolis, said, “Planting’s two weeks behind. April 20 is a good start time. I started on the 30th and made some good progress this week. You just make time when someone gets sick. We’ve got guys bringing planters, including myself, and we’ve got people like Gail, who will be around to help with the fertilizer and fill the planters with seed.”

Gail Peterson of Niles, who serves with Hershberger and Waldschmidt on the Cass County Fair Board, said he came to do “whatever I can. We raise 100,000 bushels of corn a year, and only feed 10,000” on his beef farm.

Ben’s son, Kevin, said, “It’s amazing for a community like ours to come together like this. It really shows how much the old man is appreciated. We’d get it in the ground, but it would be a lot longer turnaround. I’m a fulltime electrician. My brother farms fulltime. I’ve been helping him where I can. Dad’s the brains behind everything who has all the numbers. Luckily, he’s still able to answer questions, so we’re on the phone to him all the time. I’m hoping he’s out of the hospital by the middle or end of next week. They had him up, walking around, on Tuesday. He’s making trips down the hall. I remember helping Jim when I was knee-high.”

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