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Tom Louderback '06 Volunteers with Farm Rescue to Assist Farmers in Need

Tom Louderback ’06 found a unique way to exemplify being a ‘leader for good in the world’ by volunteering with Farm Rescue, a nonprofit organization that provides planting, haying, harvesting, commodity hauling and livestock feeding assistance to farm and ranch families that have experienced a major injury, illness, or natural disaster. Farm Rescue gives families a chance to continue their livelihood by providing the necessary equipment and manpower (free of charge) to get the job done.

As a native of the midwest himself, Tom says farming is in his blood because his mom grew up on the family farm in Nebraska. While working at JLG Industries in McConnellsburg, PA, a coworker told him about his volunteer experience with Farm Rescue in North Dakota. Tom has now been volunteering for the past five years, usually spending one or two weeks away each fall and spring, and it’s become something he’s very passionate about. 

“The beautiful thing about it is, it’s not a handout, it’s a hand up,” Tom said. “John Deere is a keynote sponsor, and they provide the combines, the tractors, the planters, and the volunteers. The farmer provides the input costs, fuel, oil, seed, fertilizer, grain trucks, and things like that. It solely runs off donations, grants, and sponsorships, which helps with transporting equipment, harvesting, housing, and feeding us while we’re there. The only thing the volunteers are responsible for is transportation to and from the farm location.”

Since operations began in 2006, Farm Rescue has assisted more than 900 farm families in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, eastern Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas. Family crises range from cancer treatment and spinal cord injuries to severed limbs and tornado destruction. The first farmer ever assisted by Farm Rescue was a 32-year-old farmer who lost his right hand in a grain auger accident.

“The biggest takeaway I’ve had from it are the conversations you have with some of the most humble people in the world,” Tom said. “You're talking to families who have been on their land for generations so they appreciate your time and efforts to keep it successful.”

Assisted farmers are chosen through an application process that is often initiated by a relative, neighbor, or Farm Rescue sponsor.
“Farmers are very prideful, so sometimes they don’t reach out and say, ‘I need help.’ Often times, it’s neighbors that reach out and do the application for farm rescue sponsorship,” he said.

Farmers must submit FSA documentation and medical verification, if applicable, which Farm Rescue’s Board of Directors reviews before making their final decision on whether assistance will be provided.
Tom enjoys getting the opportunity to see parts of the country that he would otherwise never get to see.

“The spirit of these towns, they’re so tight-knit, it’s true small-town America,” he said. “It’s similar to the culture at Saint James.”
Tom received his BA from Virginia Military Institute and MBA from Norwich University. For the past two years, he has worked at Kubota Tractor Corporation headquartered in Grapevine, Texas as Business Development Manager. He spends a lot of time traveling in the Southeast division of Kubota. He also owns Lost Drake Farm in Shepherdstown WV, a 100-acre hay farm, and works with the local FFA on providing educational opportunities to younger generations.

Tom owns a lot of  Kubota orange farm equipment, but enjoys the perk of operating equipment worth millions of dollars while volunteering with Farm Rescue. Tom noted that all volunteers take online classes to earn a certification through John Deere.

“It’s a good blend of volunteers. Many are retired farmers, but we have others from all walks of life just to be able to experience it and have the chance to run some very high dollar John Deere equipment,” Tom said. “The rig I was running was almost $2.5 million dollars. It was an air seeder that takes almost 300 feet to turn around so you’ve got to know what you’re doing. It’s pretty cool.”

Tom pointed out that farming has advanced with technology, with many pieces of equipment that are GPS guided after you map your field. 
“Farming is not haphazard, it’s extremely data driven, and we try to provide that for these farmers as well, so that data comes back to them very clean,” he said. “Then they can report back to the USDA, things like the rate of spray, the rate of seed, seed depth, different types of seed; all of that gets reported.”

Tom said the most rewarding thing he gets out of this experience loops back to the Saint James mantra of being a leader for good in the world. 
“Father Dunnan puts a lot of focus on that, but when you experience something where you’re truly giving back, that really resonates,” he said. “I think it could resonate with many in the younger generation. It’s not just about getting your volunteer hours, but how you can truly give back in a meaningful way that transcends time a little bit.”

While at Saint James, Tom noted that Marty Collin and Sandra Pollock set an example of a selfless act of giving back, stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things, and being mindful of others. 

“It’s those kinds of people who give so much to so many, and this is my way of doing that for people who I may not see again, but everybody remembers who has been on their farm,” he said. “It’s about doing something that’s a little bit bigger than yourself.”

Tom said Saint James is a place that opened him up to trying new things and how to learn from failure.

“My path wasn’t exactly straight but nobody’s is,” he said. “Those ups and downs and learning experiences open you up to develop skills in life that really put you at a different echelon than peers at other schools with a different mindset. I think that’s one of the really nice things about Saint James.”

Tom’s advice to current students is if you believe in something, keep at it. 
“There are many, many avenues to doing good productive work in the world,” he said.

A point he has proven time and again with his work with Farm Rescue, and we wish him all the best as he continues that work.

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