Chamber’s farmer-appreciation gesture leads to viral social media post

June 5, 2019

Holly Rader had her doubters.

When the agri-business division manager for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce first mentioned bringing cookies to area farmers, it got a little pushback.

Maybe it wouldn’t be appreciated, some said.

Maybe cookies and a note from “the city” would be viewed as somehow diminishing the terrible struggle the area ag community is enduring.

Rader led the effort anyway.

And the response has been nothing short of staggering.

“Wow,” she said, struggling to hold back tears. “It was such a powerful day.”

Twenty volunteers spent Tuesday stopping at 75 farms from Volga to Lennox and Beaver Creek, Minn., to Inwood, Iowa, and all around the Sioux Falls area.

Rader baked 34 dozen cookies in her home. Grand Falls Casino donated 30 dozen.

“We just wanted to give a smile and a bag of cookies and a note, and the reaction was overwhelming,” Rader said.

Here’s what the note said:

“The members of the business community know that farmers are the backbone of America. Thank you for your dedication to feeding the world.

“We know the ag sector – our region’s No. 1 industry – is struggling. We recognize your hard work and perseverance through one of the most difficult times the ag industry has ever seen.

“Although words and cookies can’t make this tough time any easier, our hope is that this ‘thank you’ will be a small ray of sunshine in a dreary year.”

Photo by Jennifer Dukes Lee

Jennifer Dukes Lee, an author and farmer in northwest Iowa, was on the receiving end of one of those notes.

And when she wrote back that night on Facebook, her message started multiplying as thousands shared it.

“Tonight, my husband stood on the edge of a soggy cornfield when a stranger pulled onto the farm yard. The stranger wasn’t from around here. He was dressed like someone from the city, showing up in a shiny car — clean, not like the way a truck looks from driving the muddy, rutted country roads around here,” she wrote.

“The stranger stepped out the car door and held in his hands the most unexpected surprise: a paper bag filled with cookies, along with a note.

“ ‘Cookies won’t make it better,’ he said. ‘But we wanted you to know we understand what you’re going through.’ ”

“The guy was from the city — from the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. And he had left the city for the day to drive around the countryside with cookies and notes. He had zero motive. He came only to deliver hope to farmers like my husband, who are really struggling right now.”

In an instant, Lee wrote, that stranger became a friend:

“Simply because he cared. Simply because he saw someone who was hurting. Simply because he understood the basic human need for community.

“You might not be a farmer, but I’ll bet you know the gift of being seen, of being heard, of feeling like someone who doesn’t even know you truly cares. Or maybe you know what it’s like to leave your comfort zone, like that man left the city, to make sure someone who is struggling feels a little bit less alone. What a priceless gift!

“We all need to know that we belong to each other — whether we are city folk, farm folk, whatever folk. No matter where people live, work — no matter what we believe — we all belong to each other. And in a hurting world, that can make all the difference.”

Rader, who already had heard the powerful effect the experience had on her volunteers, read in awe as other farmers who had received a visit began commenting on the post.

“I could not sleep,” she said. “I have to give God all the glory because we got a little feedback before that something like this wouldn’t have been appreciated because it’s not really helping. I feel so thankful for the response.”

She experienced some of it firsthand, as she visited farms in Lennox and Chancellor where crops are still in the ground from the fall because there has been so much moisture.

“We were just going to leave one farm, and a woman came out of a shed,” she said. “We just said, ‘We know it’s cookies and words, and they don’t go far and can’t help the situation, but we definitely appreciate what you’re doing and what you’ve done all these years, and we know right now is not an easy time.’ Her eyes started welling up and tears started rolling down her face and she said, ‘Thank you so much for stopping. It has been so hard.’ It was such a powerful day. I didn’t expect that. We can’t compare ourselves to what they’re going through, but we’re going to feel it if things stay the way they’ve been.”

A bag of cookies is left for a farmer in Lincoln County.

As word has spread, it’s helping fulfill her initial thought: That one act of kindness might lead to more.

“A lot of people are seeing this from all over,” she said. “My hope from the beginning, and what I told the group when I pitched it, was that this is the opportunity to start a trend. We’re not done.”

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Chamber’s farmer-appreciation gesture leads to viral social media post

“It was such a powerful day.” The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce touched a lot of farmers with a simple act of kindness yesterday. What happened next is reaching thousands.

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