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The sun starts to break through the clouds as farmers harvest soybeans Wednesday for Mount Vernon farmer and leukemia patient Alan Greenway. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

Harvest of health and help for Greenway

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MOUNT VERNON — This soybean harvest was worth more than just its yield.

Neighbors, friends and family gathered Wednesday afternoon to help harvest about 500 acres of Alan and Julie Greenway’s soybeans northeast of Mount Vernon.

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Alan, father of Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, has been fighting leukemia — a form of cancer — since early last year. During the battle, he’s made regular trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for therapy, making it impossible to keep up with chores on the farm.

“We’re doing this to help Alan and Julie,” said Brad Greenway, Alan’s brother. “The neighbors and friends were the ones who called, and they wanted to do something. As a family, we’re so appreciative.

“It’s the amazing part of living somewhere like South Dakota. You don’t have to even ask. They just volunteer, so that makes you feel pretty good.”

Brad said Alan was expected to leave Rochester and return home late Wednesday evening. Alan’s cancer is in remission.

When Alan arrives home, he’ll return to five picked bean fields that took about 30 people five hours to harvest. Combines were cruising, dust was flying and everyone was happy to lend a hand.

“The support is great,” Chad Greenway said by phone, “and my uncles and grandparents have been an integral part of that, and also many neighbors and friends have joined in and made things a little bit easier for our family going through this process.”

The help came from all angles, some driving grain trucks, others steering combines and women making sure stomachs weren’t empty at lunch time.

Peggy Greenway, Brad’s wife, and Kelly (Greenway) Rus, Alan and Julie’s daughter, worked on lunches for about an hour to deliver to the fields at noon.

“We have so many great neighbors and friends,” Peggy said.

Chuck Storm, 64, took a break from running the combine for an afternoon bite. His machine was sweeping 35-foot paths across the field and its computer was reading in the high-40s on the bushel-per-acre reading.

Storm recollected memories of high school football games he watched alongside Alan. While Chad was starring for the cooperative Stickney-Mount Vernon, Storm’s son Aaron was playing for Emery-Ethan. Storm went to the Mayo clinic about three weeks ago for a visit and has known Alan and Julie for about 20 years.

“Alan is a friend and he’d do this for anyone,” said Storm, who also helped in the fields during spring planting. “Whenever someone is in need, you do what you can to help, and I’ll gladly do it.

“No one will have to work overly long or hard, because we have so many people helping.”

Tom Greenway, 80, father to Alan, Brad and Doug, was one of the first in the field, driving the combine and dumping beans into a grain trailer, attached to a John Deere tractor driven by Doug.

While Tom was in the field, Thomas Smith — who works on the farm for Brad — got to the field after finishing at the hog barn. Smith said he’s worked with Brad for about five years.

“Brad had about 15 missed calls this morning when we were loading pigs,” Smith, 23, said. “People were wondering when we were going to get started and where they needed to go.”

The group was anticipating a storm that will likely bring rain to the area today and over the weekend. It was crucial to get the beans harvested, Brad said. He explained soybeans have a tendency to pop open when the sun comes out after a big rain. The beans swell up because of the moisture, and when the sun comes out, the outside shell shrinks back down and the beans cannot fit inside anymore.

“That leaves a lot of beans on the ground,” Brad said.

While the Greenways have gotten help before on the farm, Brad said this is by far the biggest group of people. Storm guessed the corn harvest would be the next gathering. When that harvest arrives, everyone involved will be thinking of Alan.

“He’s doing better now,” Brad Greenway said. “It’s been a long battle and we’ll keep our fingers crossed.” 

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