Off-farm job, volunteering keep couple busy

RAYMORE, Sask. — At 3 a.m., Dan Lorenz could be checking a calving cow or driving 20 kilometres to Raymore to help land a STARS helicopter.

In the last two years, STARS has landed five times at Raymore.

“I did the training to land it,” Dan said. “It’s knowing where to set up the base and not be scared to get blown over.”

He is one farmer willing to abandon his farm chores if an emergency call comes in during busy times.

He said most rural people go to fires or accidents to see if they can help.

“You’re going to be there, so you might as well be there knowing what to do,” he said of his 29 year association with the volunteer fire department.

Dan has been chief for two years, with about half of the 19 firefighters drawn from the rural region.

His wife, Cheryl, who works part-time for the credit union, is a volunteer for STARS and helps raise money for the service that came to the province about two years ago.

At age 18, Cheryl suffered head and neck injuries and a collapsed lung in a car accident in Manitoba.

“I waited three hours for the ambulance to come back for me because they took the more critical person first,” she said.

Dan feels able to handle some of the scenes that other responders would rather not see.

“I pulled my buddy out of a fire in 1982,” he said.

In those days, Dan was working off the fourth-generation family farm his great-grandfather homesteaded in 1904.

His grandfather and father each took their turns and now he, Cheryl and their nine-year-old son, Spencer, live on that same quarter.

They grow wheat, canola, peas, barley and oats on about 1,500 acres and have a 100 cow predominantly Red Angus-Charolais cross commercial herd.

Cheryl, who grew up in a town, owns about one-third of the cows, and the first two calves, which arrived a few weeks earlier than expected in January thanks to a persistent bull butting against a gate, are hers.

In earlier days, the farm had pigs, milk cows and chickens, and generations of Lorenzes sustained themselves on the farm’s production.

“When I worked (off farm), it was down to 10 or 15 cows,” Dan said.

Over the years, he worked at machinery dealerships, in carpentry and at a pipeline welding shop, among others. He said there wasn’t enough quality land available to make grain farming a full-time occupation for him, and now land prices have skyrocketed while grain prices are plummeting.

Wheat that was $8 is now $4, peas that were $12.60 might fetch $10 and barley that was $6 is $3.10.

“How much do you lock in?”

He is more certain about his role in emergency response and community involvement. He and Cheryl are both involved with Prairie Women on Snowmobiles cancer fundraisers and Spencer’s love of skiing has led to Cheryl’s executive position on the Regina Alpine Ski Club.

After a tornado a few years ago, they organized about 300 volunteers to walk 20 fields north of Raymore to pick up debris and make the fields safe to farm.

In 2005, Dan was the only one home when a tornado came through their farmyard, taking out bins and ripping off the Quonset door but sparing the livestock.

“I know what it’s like to pick up behind myself,” he said.”

Last week, the family was replacing shingles and repairing corrals after strong winds tore across the Prairies.

Volunteer response is critical in the Raymore area because the nearest ambulance is in Lestock, 90 minutes away by car. There is a health centre in town but a doctor is there only two days per week.

The necessity of STARS hit home for Dan in September 2012.

A neighbour had a heart attack and friends were there to call for help.

“He wouldn’t be here today without STARS,” Dan said, noting the helicopter can arrive within 22 minutes.

The couple organizes fundraisers for the Fund a Flight program through STARS. The average flight cost is $5,400, and their events have raised a little more than $13,000 in the last 18 months.

“If you don’t do it, who will?” Dan said.

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