Member of the Gowrie, Iowa, Fire Department put on protection gear and assemble a rescue tube as part of a mock grain bin rescue.

A ‘cooperative’ effort in saving lives

A new trailer brings a life-saving change to the Gowrie Fire Department

Gowrie is your typical Midwestern town. There are no skyscrapers here, mostly grain bins popping up on the horizon. And just like other small towns across the country, the residents of this Iowa community take care of each other in a big way.

Take, for instance, West Central Cooperative. Just down the road, headquartered in Ralston, Iowa, the cooperative is an avid community supporter. Although it’s donated to a variety of projects, the co-op’s main focus has been on new equipment for the fire houses in the 11 counties where their employees live, work and play. So when the Gowrie Volunteer Fire Department needed equipment for grain bin rescues, West Central was there to help.

Grain bins are a part of rural life—and they need maintenance. Cooperative employees decked out in safety gear sometimes enter the grain bins to wash down the walls and unstick solid pockets of grain. Unfortunately, even with the safety precautions, accidents happen. If a worker falls into the grain below, suffocation is a real threat, and the response needs to be swift. 

For this kind of response, many pieces of equipment are needed: a grain rescue tube, an auger, air tanks to power the auger, shovels and harnesses, and a trailer to haul it all. The Gowrie Fire Department had the gear, but was missing the trailer.

West Central gave the crew $500 to help buy the trailer. They also applied for—and received—a matching grant from the Land O’Lakes Foundation, bringing the total donation to $1,000.

“Before the trailer, we stored the equipment in the back of the firehouse,” says Greg Benson, Gowrie’s long-serving fire chief. “We’d have to throw it into a truck before we could respond to a call. Now, we can store everything in the trailer, hook it to a truck and go.”

Trent Farnham, a volunteer fire fighter, agrees that the trailer is a great addition for the fire department. “Having this trailer is a huge asset for our rescue and transport efforts,” he says.

Firefighters Practice With Equipment

Greg and Trent are part of a team of 20 highly skilled volunteer fire fighters who serve Gowrie and surrounding towns. They respond to field fires, along with car and equipment accidents, and are now better equipped for grain bin accidents.

The Gowrie Volunteer Fire Department is just one of the many groups supported by West Central through its generous giving. Over the course of 13 years, the co-op has donated more than $128,000 to fire houses, recreation centers, county fair displays and other causes. Thanks to the Land O’Lakes Foundation Member Co-op Match program, the total contributions add up to more than $256,000.

And West Central is only one example of the ways the Member Co-op Match program partners with local cooperatives to support communities across the country. Land O’Lakes members donated more than $1.5 million to help their communities in 2015, a total that was matched 100 percent by the Land O’Lakes Foundation.

“The donation from West Central and Land O’Lakes helped put us over the top,” says Greg, nodding toward the trailer, peppered with names of the groups that made it happen—each a permanent reminder of the importance of giving back.