Farmers’ Friend: Bill Gross

Bill GrossPhotographed by Danny Wilcox Frazier/Redux

• Our hero: Bill Gross, 45

• Hometown: Seattle, Washington

• How he helps: Aids needy farmers

Bill Gross, an international UPS pilot, was once asked by a copilot about his plan for retirement. “I’m going to get a big John Deere four-wheel-drive tractor and a planter,” said Gross, who grew up on a farm in North Dakota. “I’ll drive across North Dakota, pulling into places where it looks like a farmer is having a tough time and say, ‘Hey, I’ll plant a couple hundred acres for you today, free of charge.'” Everyone chuckled at the thought of a “crazy old guy roaming around planting fields.” But the seed was sown for Farm Rescue, a group helping farm families affected by injury, illness, and natural disaster.

Launched in 2005 with the aid of RDO Equipment Co., which donated the necessary machinery, Farm Rescue provided assistance to ten farm families in its first year of operation. One recent job was helping Merlin Backman, a farmer who postponed arm surgery for planting season. “I told the doctor, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do [about the] farmwork.’ And today Farm Rescue is putting my crop in for me.”

To date, Farm Rescue has helped almost 150 farm families in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. The organization has teams of volunteers, working shifts of 8 or 12 hours at a time around the clock, all spring and fall seasons. “Due to flooding, 2011’s spring was the most difficult we’ve ever had,” says Gross.

Despite his busy flying schedule, Gross devotes his extra time to Farm Rescue, plowing cornfields or arranging jobs from airports when he’s on a layover. “Small family farms are dying off,” he says. “The further they go into debt, the less likely their children will carry on the tradition. That’s what’s driving me. We’re making it possible for farm families to continue on for future generations.”

To volunteer, donate, or apply for assistance, go to

Know a local hero? Visit American Towns to submit your nomination:

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Funny Jokes

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

Funny Jokes

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

Funny Jokes

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


Funny Jokes

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.