By Celeste Baumgartner
OXFORD, Ohio – The ag community takes care of their own. On a gorgeous fall Saturday, 56 tractors headed out from Schwab’s Family Farm Market, in Oxford, for a 30-mile ride to Hueston Woods State Park and back. It was a benefit for Jason Beckner, who was critically injured in a truck/train collision on Aug. 6.
That evening, more friends served 440 pork burgers and 60 pork burgers, all donated. That was in addition to a meal train friends had started for the family, immediately after the accident, plus offers to help on the farm and an online benefit auction.
“It’s very humbling. The biggest thing for me was, you’re wondering about a lot of different things, and that takes your mind off of things because people are stepping up and helping,” said Jason, who is recovering at home. “It puts your mind at ease.”
Beckner, a farmer, and manager of Zimmer Tractor, Monroe, was driving to work at 7 a.m. when sun glare blinded him. He didn’t see the train. It collided with and then rolled his pickup truck. Fortunately, some of the first people on the scene were trained medics. Railroad men were working nearby.
They managed to get the truck back on its wheels. Someone called Seven Mile EMS; the accident was in their territory, but the train was blocking their way. Milford and Oxford EMS also responded. Oxford had needed extraction equipment. By 8:30, Beckner was being airlifted to Miami Valley Hospital, where medics were waiting.
“Jason was speaking with them – he was coherent all the time,” said his sister, Kari Roberts. “What is amazing is that he had no brain, neck or spinal injuries. He had bones broken in 17 places.”
Beckner was hospitalized for several weeks and underwent several surgeries. His wife, Stephanie, stayed with him while their three kids Justin, 18, Ryland, 15, and Lydia, 8, managed the farm.
“Dad likes to help out the kids at the fair, buy projects, he helps Farm Bureau, does a lot for the community behind the scenes,” Justin said. “When he had an accident, and people found out, the love and support was just crazy. As the word got out, I had 20 to 30 people reach out to me asking what they could do to help on the farm.”
Justin, a former state FFA officer, remembered being on an FFA tour when Tom Price, Price Farm Organics, told him about the bank of goodwill. He had an “Aha” moment remembering that.
“He wasn’t talking about a place where you keep your money,” Justin said. “It’s a place where, if you give to the community, the community will give back to you when you need it.”
Meanwhile, others in the ag community were looking for ways to help the family, Roberts said. Roy Wesselman, on the Reilly Township Fire Department, brainstormed with Mike Schwab, owner of Schwab’s Family Farm Market, and brought up the idea of a tractor drive.
“They have a passion for agriculture and tractors, and they knew Jason did,” Roberts said. “Mike and Roy talked to people, the Oxford Township Fire Department, the police chief, and got approval for a 30-mile route.”
The planners asked for a $20 donation from participants. They had 56 tractors and 83 participants – some rode in wagons. Three vehicles carried fuel and parts in case of a breakdown, as did a van at the end. They stopped at Hannon’s Camp America, who donated lunch.
People enjoying the beautiful day at the Hueston Woods stood slack-jawed as the tractors, many with flags flying, drove by.
That evening, the drive-thru pork chop dinner took place at the Collinsville community Center. Chick-fil-A donated macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies. Roberts, Melissa Gillespie and Charlie Kennel (Charlie’s Grilling Service LLC), along with Jason’s parents, Margie and Russell Beckner, and other volunteers took action. The 440 pork chops were gone by 5:15. Someone found 60 pork burgers, and they lasted until 6:00.
“We didn’t have anything left over,” Roberts said. “It was a great show of support. That’s the ag community – that’s what they do.”