ALBANY — When the Albany farming community first heard of the Brewer family’s tragic loss of both parents, they quickly rushed to offer support.
Through grief, COVID-19 and inclement weather, the life of a farmer often doesn’t leave room for a day off, so friends and neighbors of Tami (Behnke), Traci and Tony Brewer came together Oct. 6 to help harvest the family’s bean crop just weeks after the sibling trio lost their mother, Joann, to cancer. Their father, Glenn, had died of cancer just seven months earlier.
“A lot of work got done by a lot of people in a short time because everyone worked together,” Tony said. “It was a tribute to what mom and dad meant to people.
The Brewers had spent years giving back to the community, volunteering with 4-H youth and serving on local boards. Those who knew the family wanted to celebrate that and return the favor.
“It’s just that family that you want to give back to,” the family’s friend and crop insurance manager Heather Golz said. “It’s a day to celebrate good crops and good people.”
I feel lucky that I work in an industry where people still care about people. Although in somebody’s eyes these guys may be competitors, at the end of the day, relationship and family means more than work and money.Heather Golz
While she had seen similar large-scale acts of kindness shown on Facebook or other social media, Golz had never seen one that hit so close to home. “This was the first time I’ve been able to be involved in something [like this]. It’s great.”
About 20 farming friends and neighbors of the family brought equipment to the rural Albany farm and finished harvesting the family’s 170 acres in just three hours. Traditionally, the job would have taken multiple days.
“I can’t even put into words what [the day] meant,” Tami said. “It’s overwhelming, the emotion that I felt.”
Throughout the day, about 100 friends of the family stopped by the farm to show the family support, leaving behind their own farms at the peak of harvest to come together for something bigger.
Making personal sacrifices to support those around them is a common occurrence in the farming community, Golz said. Last fall, neighbors and friends of the family helped with harvest as Glenn’s health declined.
“I feel lucky that I work in an industry where people still care about people,” she said. “Although in somebody’s eyes these guys may be competitors, at the end of the day, relationship and family means more than work and money.”
By coming together to support the Brewer family, the helpers knew that they would be setting their own harvest back by the day. Instead of backing down, they came in droves.
“These farmers are all leaving their fields to be here,” she said. “No one asked them to be here, no one is paying them to be here. They just want to be here.”
In many rural communities, farming families form particularly tight bonds with one another, which lends the way for some of the selfless acts seen in farming communities.
“That’s just what farmers do,” Tami said. “Help each other. Yes, we’ve had a tough year, but it was made so much easier by our friends and neighbors.”
The bond between families in farming communities is something that has been passed down for generations, Tony said.
“If somebody needs help, [farmers] work together,” he said. “It’s just in their blood.”
Tony said that their mother, Joann, instilled in them a strong work ethic and oftentimes stressed the importance of working together. When another farmer needs help, others are quick to answer the call. “It just goes back to the character of everyone around us,” he said.
We live right now in a world that’s so negative. With this, you get something positive. It’s what we need.Tony Brewer, Albany
Appreciation and support filled the hearts of those that attended the event. Though the gathering was prompted by something tragic, the farming community was able to transform the difficult time into something positive for all of those involved. Amid COVID-19, political turmoil and a time of uncertainty on many small family farms, the group of farmers were able to produce a silver lining through their teamwork and dedication.
“We live right now in a world that’s so negative,” Tony said. “With this, you get something positive. It’s what we need.”
As is often done in the farming community, the Brewer siblings hope to some day return the favor, Tony said. That’s “just the way that mom and dad would want us to do.”
Within the Brewer family, tight bonds and relationships have always been important aspects of life as well.
Now grown, each of the Brewer siblings lives within one mile of their parents’ estate and all still work on the farm.
“That’s how we were raised,” Tami said. “This is a family farm and we work together.”