ELKHART COUNTY — When Don Lechlitner fell off a ladder two weeks ago, the corn and soybean farmer was right in the middle of harvest season. He broke four ribs and his pelvis and has been relegated to using a walker. Once word about his accident spread, farmers began calling and asking how they could help. His friend and neighbor, Dewayne Bontrager, offered to help organize all those who had offered their services.
“I’m not one to ask for help,” Lechlitner said.
Lechlitner said there were at least 25 people who came over Friday afternoon with at least five semis and about a dozen combines to harvest all of his soybeans. They harvested 250 acres of soybeans over six fields. It would normally take Lechlitner between one and two weeks to do that on his own, depending on the weather.
“This is pretty humbling,” he said.
Bontrager said the two have been neighbors for more than 50 years, since they were kids. He said about two years ago, they helped another farmer south of Goshen harvest his crops. The group started harvesting around 1 p.m. on Friday and finished a few hours later. It was fairly simple to round up all the farmers who offered their help and machinery. Bontrager said.
“It’s a pretty common thing,” he said of farmers helping out other farmers.
The group was organized about a week after the accident. They were just waiting for some of the soy beans to be ready for harvest and for the weather to cooperate. Friday was the perfect day. It doesn’t bother the other farmers to donate their time, even in the middle of harvest season.
“If you were in that situation, you’d need help,” Bontrager said.
Even though Lechlitner knew he needed the other farmer’s help, it was still difficult to take. He has helped other farmers when they’ve needed it and prefers to be on the giving side.
“It’s tough for anyone to accept that,” Lechlitner said.
His wife, Teresa Lechlitner, said she was overwhelmed by the amount of people that showed up to help. The Lechlitners provided food for those who came and she said she was worried that more people came than they had bought food for. A couple guys came out on Friday that even Don Lechlitner didn’t even really know.
The phone was ringing off the hook after the accident with people offering their services. Her husband wouldn’t have asked for help himself, she said.
“Farmers are great people,” Teresa Lechlitner said. “They want to help out.”
The Lechlitners have about 350 acres of corn that they will be taking care of themselves with help from a couple other people.
“We can never repay what they’ve done for us,” she said.