Photo by Ryan Richardson
Local farmer Dustin Warren isn’t one for the spotlight, but when the local farming community lost one of their own, he knew the story of brotherhood needed to be shared.
“I am a small piece to this puzzle,” Warren said. “But someone has to be the front man.”
Recently Joey Thompson, co-owner of the multi-generational farm PPJ Thompson, went in for heart surgery and was expected to return home, but died a week later from a pulmonary embolism.
“I guess the Lord just said, ‘Your work here is done,’” Warren said.
Within minutes of hearing the devastating news, the farming community and neighbors began asking what they could do to help the farm, while also allowing the family to not worry about the farm and take the necessary time to plan the funeral.
Warren said that all that day people were stopping what they were doing on their farms and coming to help the Thompsons in any way they could. Volunteers ultimately cut, baled and stored nearly 3,000 bales of hay at the Thompson’s western Daviess County farm.
“People were still coming at night as word spread,” Warren said. “After we finished, we sat under shade trees telling stories about Joey.”
Warren said that this feeling of stewardship is so important at these times.
“It’s more than just getting a crop in, it’s asking ‘What do you need?’” he said. “There are so many stories like this that I think nothing of it.”
Warren is also a volunteer firefighter for St. Joseph Fire Department and says the same is true when they are called to situations.
“It’s just what you do; you don’t think twice,” he said.
Warren learned what was needed for families in difficult situations in 1999, when his father, a part-time farmer, was dying of cancer.
“A neighbor came to tell us he was going to cut our tobacco and for us not to worry,” Warren said.
Fifteen years old at the time, Warren said that his feelings were hurt because he wanted to help, but he now realizes what they were doing by allowing the family to be together.
He said he frequently was asked why he didn’t choose to get a different job where he could make more money, but each time there is a call for help, he says he couldn’t drop what he was doing if he was in a factory job.
“It’s us out here in the country, and we are doing what we do,” he said.
Local farmers did the same when David Sparks was hospitalized and died from COVID-19 in the fall of 2021 when it was time for harvesting. Ten area farmers who helped with the harvest of the corn and soybeans at the Sparks family farm received the 2022 Humanitarian Award at the 42nd Annual Farm City Breakfast this year.
“So many farmers come – bringing combines and whatever else is needed to finish a crop even if theirs is still standing,” Warren said.
In January 2022, local farmer Bill Murphy succumbed to cancer and the farming community paid tribute by lining the road to his visitation at his house with tractors. Some came from as far away as Union County and Henderson County.
“They lined up to show support and respect,” Warren said. “It’s just another way of helping to show they care.”
Warren believes in the power of help, and said the farming community takes this with them wherever they go. Jumping in gives people this avenue to help, something he believes all people want and need.
“We’re all friends here,” he said. “We jump in to help and we are down to help. We need a good song, a good story. I hate that it took Joey to tell us this.”