The incredible way a community rallied around an ailing farmer to create ‘amazing harvest’

GALVA, Ill. (WRIC/ABC) — When a small community in Illinois learned that a local farmer had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, they pulled together as they usually do and harvested all of his 450 acres of corn — in just one day.

55-year-old Carl Bates of Galva, Illinois, has a “fast, aggressive cancer,” according to his younger brother Ernie Bates. The cancer is affecting many parts of his body, including his kidney and spinal column, according to his family.

While Bates rested at a home in hospice care, choosing not to undergo treatment, his family said, the community decided to come together to complete the harvest in a day. Normally, it would have taken about a week.

Carl’s cousin, Dan, first had the idea to get the community involved to help out the ailing farmer. From there, about 40 people donated trucks and labor to harvest 450 acres in 10 hours. It’s typical to harvest 80 acres a day, he said.

Farmers gather to help harvest Carl Bates' corn crop on September 25, 2015 in Galva, Illinois. (Photo: Rumbold & Kuhn, Inc. via ABC News)
Farmers gather to help harvest Carl Bates’ corn crop on September 25, 2015 in Galva, Illinois. (Photo: Rumbold & Kuhn, Inc. via ABC News)

Melissa Bates, Dan Bates’ daughter-in-law and Carl’s first cousin once removed, said the family has been shocked by the national attention over the community effort.

“It’s not a new thing. Farmers have been pulling together like this forever, when someone is ill or has an accident, just in our daily life,” she said. “It wasn’t like it was a big deal to organize it. People are just like, ‘Oh yeah I’ll come and donate a day.’ It wasn’t even thought about. We just come together and do it. Even people who were not very close to their family wanted to be involved. I think if they are in the same situation, you can’t do it by yourself.”

Local grain broker Rumbold and Kuhn donated 12 of the 16 trucks used for the job, which took place on September 25.

“It was very awe inspiring,” Ernie Bates, 53, told ABC News. “The small town came together and put on a tremendous showing, from bringing food to working. We enjoyed the camaraderie. Everyone was very pleasant and worked extremely hard and that is attributable to Carl. He’s a very likable individual.”

Farming runs in the Bates family, which have lived in the tight-knit community in Galva for generations.

“Carl has been a farmer since he was 4 or 5 years old. My dad farmed forever. And his dad farmed forever,” Bates said. He describes his brother as a “quiet, reserved guy,” and “probably one of the toughest people you’ll ever meet.”

Carl, who “has never complained and never given up,” Ernie said, is the type that would normally refuse charity. Still, he was appreciative of the community’s support.

“He was very pleased and impressed,” Ernie said. “He’s the type of guy that has always done for himself. He doesn’t ask for any help and doesn’t want any help. He was very pleased with everybody and happy they came out.”

Information in this report came from ABC News.

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