When Jim Henschel was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in the summer, his wife Kim Henschel was unsure of what to do.
Jim, who is almost 40, is the lifeblood of the family dairy farm, Deer-Vue Acres, just outside of Elkhart Lake, where they have been farming for over 15 years and have been married for 23 years. Kim also works full time herself and the couple have three children – Katelyn, 15; Austin, 18; and Sarah, 21.
“It is difficult to take the principal out of the operation,” Kim said. “It was very difficult trying to do the daily routine. Everyone felt that pinch, like everyone had to lift their legs a little higher to do the job.”
When the harvest season arrived, the Henschels decided to hire labor to harvest the corn silage. Through this, they met Kenny Strack, Jr. of Strack-View Farms in Random Lake, who would provide his own equipment to harvest the 120 acres. But after finding out why he was hired, Strack decided to do some of the work for free as a donation to the family. Many other farmers in the area also decided to help, and all donated their time and resources during one of the busiest times of the year for farmers.
“I always believe in helping someone in need when times are tough on them, and I always watch (like) what happens,” Strack said. “So I hope that with my donations here today, if any member of my family gets sick, I hope the community will come together for us too.”
While Strack had only met Jim and Kim a few days before, Glenn Ubbelohde, who also helped harvest corn with his own tractor, has known the Henschels for decades. He was especially moved during the harvest because of the special relationship between the Henschels and his own family. He said he has known Jim since he was young and their children have pitted themselves against each other.
“I sold my cows last October and Jim bought me a heifer so I just thought I could help,” Ubbelohde said with a few tears. “I had the time and could afford to do it, so I just thought I would get down to business.”
Rick Knoflicek from Majestic Crossing Dairy in Sheboygan Falls also participated. He said that when his brother-in-law passed away two years ago, the community turned out to be helping his family cope with the loss. He considers it a favor forward, even with all the work on his 4,000 acre dairy farm in addition to the time given. Knoflicek said several men were able to harvest about 65 acres per day over a two-day period.
“My dad always said, if you think you’re having a bad day, someone else is having a worse day,” Knoflicek said. “If Jim is in the hospital for treatment and they need someone to fill him up a bit, I’ll do what I can to help. The neighbors do.”
Knoflicek’s wife Sara and late brother-in-law Dean Strauss had previously shown cattle with Jim and they had also been in FFA and 4-H together. Because of that connection, he said it was okay to help out on the Henschel farm. Knoflicek also said he was happy to see people of all sizes of farms volunteering.
Kim said her daughter Sara, who is in charge of feeding their farm, woke up at 3:30 a.m. each morning to help milk and feed the cows while her father recovered from chemotherapy and other treatments. Jim is also the chairman of the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah School District School Board, and Kim said the school district has been extremely kind to his family during this time and the neighbors even prepared meals for the family in order to make things a little easier. .
“It’s so humiliating. I don’t know another say. It’s great that so many people care. (These are) friends that we didn’t know we had,” Kim said. “I just want to thank everyone for the help. I don’t know what we would do without them.”
As Jim continues to undergo chemotherapy treatments, he will soon be starting radiation therapy and, Kim hopes, surgery down the line to completely eliminate the cancer. The goal right now is to isolate it as much as possible so that it is easier to remove, she said. His daughters Sara and Katelyn also expressed their gratitude for the volunteers helping on the farm.
“It means a lot just because some of them are known to have shown cows and come to the state fair,” Sara said. “Seeing them come out and help out, that really means a lot… even though they have their own farm. They are like a second family. “