Communities are shining stars (Editorial)

by | Nov 23, 2022

After another brutal election cycle, continued inflation and rising interest rates hammering farms’ bottom lines, a war in eastern Europe and numerous other issues around the world, it can be hard to see much brightness on the horizon.
But after reporting and publishing our annual “Beating the Odds” supplement — stories of farm families persevering through tragedies and disasters — the power of local communities remains a shining star in our world.
Two stories in particular, one on a fire at Jim and Janet Archer’s dairy farm, and one about Lenny Grasso’s recovery after a tornado ripped through his farm in Mullica Hill, N.J., stand out as hopeful reminders that all is not lost.
In the wake of a massive fire on Father’s Day that consumed a barn and shop at the Archer’s Fawn-View Manor Farm in Harford County, Md., hundreds flocked to the farm to help. Twelve volunteer fire departments responded, neighboring farmers rushed over with equipment to keep the farm operating and people lined the streets around the farm, hoping to be of some use to the family.
“People you never thought who knew you,” Jim told us in an interview. “I had no idea that many people cared about us — and they did.”
The caring continued through the summer and two large benefit fundraisers in September only exemplified how much the Archers meant to their community and vice versa.
“The kindness was just overwhelming,” Janet said. “It’s all been so comforting to know that we’re not alone in this and they’re here to help and sincere about it.”
Likewise in New Jersey, after Grasso’s packing shed and other farm buildings were leveled by a tornado, the community came out en masse. A farmer neighbor allowed Grasso to pack produce in his shed to finish out the season, the Gloucester County Board of Agriculture started an online fundraiser and individual donation offers poured in.
At age 62, Grasso said how to move forward wasn’t a given at first, but the way the community responded was a big factor in him deciding to rebuild and keep farming.
“There is so much good to be seen in this country, in your communities,” Grasso said. “We tend to hear a lot about the bad. This gives you promise that it’s still good.”
Though we’re singling these instances out, they aren’t completely unique. The “when disaster strikes, the community responds” motif pops up all over and at any time of the year.
Chances are, you, dear reader, have been part of a similar story.
While the cause is heart-wrenching, the effect warms our soul and reminds us there is still good in the world.
To share the sentiment of Jim Archer, it’s a story that can’t be told enough.

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