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Businessman creates hope for struggling U.S. farmers

Bill Gross founded Farm Rescue, an organization that helps disaster-stricken farmers.

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– The sight of volunteers from around the country planting soybeans amid the ruins of Damian and Martha Kappenman's farm brought tears to the eyes of the owners.

They are recipients of a one-of-a-kind program called Farm Rescue that is helping plant and harvest crops for injured, ill, or disaster-stricken farmers.

This spring, Farm Rescue helped 28 farm families, including the Kappenmans, whose farm was leveled by a quarter-mile-wide tornado in August 2006.

With no insurance to reimburse their losses so they could start anew, the Kappenmans rented out their cropland the next year, lived in a trailer for a time, and debated abandoning the only lifestyle they had ever known.

Then Farm Rescue offered a hand. "Unbelievable organization," Damian Kappenman said. "I'm just grateful Farm Rescue came along."

Bill Gross started the organization in 2006, using his own money and vacation time from his job flying around the world for UPS.

The group's volunteers do the actual work on the farm, rather than giving farmers money. The organization has helped farmers who have suffered car accidents, burn injuries, loss of limbs in farm-machinery accidents, and natural disasters.

The organization has created optimism for nearly 60 other farmers in the upper Midwest.

"Farm Rescue started out just as an idea I had, and people encouraged me to grow the organization," said Mr. Gross, who lives in Seattle and owns a farm in North Dakota. "I was initially just going to do it myself as a good Samaritan, and people told me that I should think bigger."

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