North Dakota farm group leaders rally to help Ukrainian farmers

There is no other place on earth where a farm crisis looms larger than Ukraine. Now, North Dakota farmers are reaching out across an ocean to help.

Jon Bertsch of Hillsboro (left), and Ukrainian Roman Grynyshyn speak with WDAY News' Kevin Wallevand.<br/><br/><br/>
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HILLSBORO, N.D. — The tongue-in-cheek story in Ukraine right now is that farmers have become one of the world's biggest military forces, all because they keep finding and recovering tanks and missiles in their grain fields.

But no one is laughing at the tragedy of farm life in Ukraine. Roads and farm fields have been mined. Farmers are pulling out Russian weapons from their fields.

"That makes it difficult and dangerous. It is Russian roulette whether to harvest or not. The crops are about to be ready to be harvested, but the farmers are considering whether they should harvest it or not," explained Roman Grynyshyn, who has initiated the World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine project.

Grynyshyn arrived with his family in North Dakota shortly after the war began. He is no stranger to our region. Over the years, he has led Ukrainian agriculture trade missions to NDSU and eastern North Dakota. Now, he comes representing a new effort to rebuild Ukraine's farming community, family by family.

"This is the reason why I am saying the agriculture fields are the second battlefields," Grynyshyn said.


Like the family in the video Grynyshyn had just received: Russians destroyed their milk barn. Now money raised is helping refrigerate the milk.

As all of you know, North Dakota farmers are a unique breed, and they want to help each other. Whether it is a neighbor down the township road or a farmer across an ocean.

"Some of these farmers that we see in the pictures ... are in their tractors with tactical gear on," said Jon Bertsch, of Hillsboro.

It's stories like this that have North Dakota agriculture leaders like Jon Bertch of Bertch Farms stepping up to assist Ukrainian farmers.

"To think that instead of rain falling down that bombs are falling from the sky and you literally have tanks in your field protecting you," Bertsch said.

With the world depending on grain from Ukraine, there are many unknowns. Ports and grain storage have been bombed or taken over. Even railroads are at risk, as Grynyshyn recently found out.

"In one train, (a friend) had 12 cars of grain that passed (over a bridge), but before the second train, the Russians hit the bridge, and 62 cars of grain got stuck before that bridge," he said.

Grain fields ready for harvest are targets. Roman says the Russians are burning grain fields that farmers are trying to combine.


"(Ukrainian) soldiers are literally running through the fields with blankets and trying to take down the fires," Roman said.

There are ways to connect with individual farm families in Ukraine. Visit World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine at to learn more.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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