The North Dakota Agriculture Hall of Fame Committee has selected Bill Gross of Cleveland, N.D., and Dick and Theresa Tokach of Mandan, N.D., as 2013 inductees into the North Dakota Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Gross is the founder and CEO of Jamestown-based Farm Rescue, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping farmers who have experienced a major illness, injury or natural disaster. The organization began in 2006 and gives families a chance to continue their livelihood during unexpected crises, by providing the necessary equipment and manpower to plant or harvest their crop, free of charge.
Gross grew up near Cleveland, N.D.; he attended college at the University of North Dakota and began his career as a pilot for Pan American World Airways. However, he remained close to his family farm and rural way of life. Gross kept thinking of the changing demographics of rural America and it troubled him; he vowed to himself to help farmers back home.
He started with one sponsored tractor and air-seeder, using his vacation days from UPS to help farm families, along with soliciting donations and recruiting volunteers to grow the organization.
The organization has since evolved into a regional nonprofit organization that plants and harvests crops in five states with hundreds of volunteers. Gross has helped more than 200 families in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Iowa since the inception of Farm Rescue. Gross says the best part about Farm Rescue is that: â€śIt has created an avenue for individuals and businesses to help farm families during times of crises.â€ť
Gross has been featured as a CNN Hero, People Magazine: Heroes Among Us, DirecTV: Small Town Heroes, Humanitarian of the year and received numerous other awards and accolades. He continues to serve as the President of Farm Rescue and Chairman of the Board in a volunteer capacity, while conducting his full-time job as a Boeing 747 captain, flying worldwide for UPS Airlines.
Dick and Theresa Tokach, of Mandan, N.D., are retired ranchers, who own and operated the Tokach Angus Ranch near St. Anthony, N.D. The ranch is now operated by two of their sons and their families. The Tokachâ€™s have always been active in agriculture, both holding various leadership positions in local, state and national organizations.
Dick recently retired as a Morton County commissioner and was the recipient of the 2012 North Dakota Association of Counties Excellence in County Government Award. He is a past president of the N.D. Angus Association and a member of the American Angus Association. He served as president of the N.D. Stockmenâ€™s Association and Chairman of the N.D. Beef Commission.
His contributions on the national level include serving on the Executive Committee of the National Cattlemenâ€™s Beef Association and a member of the National Beef Promotion and Research Board. Dick served two years in the North Dakota House of Representatives. He was named the Agriculturalist of the Year by the Saddle and Sirloin Club of NDSU in 1993 and was given the Top Hand Award by the N.D. Stockmenâ€™s Association.
Theresa recently completed two terms on the N.D. Agricultural Products Utilization Committee. In 1998 she was named the Country Woman of the Year by the Farm & Ranch Guide. She was very active in the District, State and National CattleWomen, having served as Chairman of the National Beef Cook-Off Committee and as Secretary to the National President. Theresa served on the state Farm Bureau Womenâ€™s Committee and as first chairman of the Morton County Ag Days Committee.
She also served on the N.D. Beef Commission and the N.D. Angus Auxiliary as their President. She served a six year term on the National Cattlemenâ€™s Beef Promotion and Research Board.
The Tokachâ€™s were early adopters of performance testing and detailed records to improve genetic selection, as well as early adopters of artificial insemination. A.I. has been utilized in their breeding program since 1977. They have also marketed their purebred cattle through an annual production sale for the last 37 years. Together the couple received the FFA Honorary State Farmerâ€™s Award and the Soil Conservation Award. Dick and Theresa have five children and 12 grandchildren, all of whom are involved in production agriculture today.
The recognition ceremony will take place on Saturday, March 9 at 1:45 p.m. This will be held in the North Dakota Winter Show Event Center Arena, in Valley City, just prior to the afternoon PRCA Rodeo. The 76th North Dakota Winter Show is scheduled for March 5-10. For more information contact the NDWS office at 1-800-437-0218, or view their website at www.northdakotawintershow.com.