By: Angela Barbosa
Growing up as a farm kid in northern Indiana, Vane Clayton had chores every morning and every night. Working the family’s dairy farm and spending big chunks of the summers helping out neighbors on their farms too, he loved the farming life. His philanthropically minded parents were both active in church and in a variety of local and state nonprofit endeavors. They instilled in him the importance of giving back. After more than 30 years as a successful tech-company executive, Clayton has come back to his roots, in a sense, volunteering since 2020 for the North Dakota-based nonprofit Farm Rescue.
Simply put, Farm Rescue helps farmers who are in crisis, whether from a major health issue, a serious accident, or a natural disaster. When a farmer or rancher in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Iowa, Nebraska or Kansas finds him or herself in need, Farm Rescue can provide the necessary equipment and trained volunteers to help them plant, hay or harvest their crops.
This model makes sense to Clayton whose upbringing gave him a passion for the farming life and a keen understanding of its inherent fragility. Farm Rescue, he says, “speaks to my roots as a farm kid,” recalling summers in his youth when he would spend upwards of 30% of his time baling hay for neighbors. And when it was his family’s time to harvest, those same neighbors showed up to help them too. That’s how the farming community works, he says. Everyone helps everyone.
His deeper inspiration for agricultural volunteerism, though, hits even closer to home. Clayton grew up hearing about a time when his father, as a young farmer himself, faced serious health issues and was unable to work. Neighbors stepped in to help when he was sick and made sure the family got through the crisis. For Clayton, helping farmers through his work with Farm Rescue feels like paying it forward.