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Prayer and potatoes -
Family puts faith in God to bring back damaged crop
  By SAMANTHA TIPLER, Herald and News 8/21/14
     MALIN — On Wednesday morning, Gavin and Julie Rajnus, along with their 17-yearold son, Ty, walked into a brown potato field. Stalks here and there were green, but the vast majority were straw-colored skeletons of plants, piles of discarded and dried leaves, or just plain dirt.

   Gavin dug his shovel into one plant, then knelt on his hands and knees to dig by hand. He pulled out one potato, a small one, then another and another. The potatoes grew consecutively larger.

   “Whoa,” Gavin said.

   “Oh my gosh,” Julie echoed.

   “That’s humungous,” said Ty.

   “It’s already working,” Gavin said.  

   The Rajnus family gave the 10-acre potato field up for dead after an Aug. 4 hailstorm killed more than 90 percent of the plants.

   On Saturday, they asked friends and family to come pray in their field, only feet away from where Ty and Gavin dug Wednesday.

   While the family had been unsure of their crop, they have found assurance in their faith.

   “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, it is the evidence of things you can’t see,” Gavin said. “So a potato underneath the ground is kind of like a parallel to that, to our faith.   That’s what we prayed for on Saturday, is what we can’t see. What God can do a miracle on. What’s impossible with man, is possible in God.”

   Praying for potatoes

   After the storm, the family, which also includes daughter Paige, 18, watched the movie, “Faith Like Potatoes,” about a South African farmer who, while seeking material success finds his passions transformed into a love for God and people. The movie inspired them to pray for their own harvest.

   About 15 people, family and friends, came to pray Saturday.

   “We gathered together we sang a song to praise the Lord first, then we all went around to pray for the fields and the farmers around the fields,” said Pastor Clay Bynum, with Life Recovery Network. “What God would bring out of that besides potatoes, this is a bigger thing than just raising potatoes.”

   “We feel bad for all the farmers who got hit by the   storm in various ways,” Gavin said. “Things can change pretty quick in this business. The water situation, the drought, the power costs have been going up exponentially.”

   Gavin had seen hail storms in the past, but none had hit his farm. Once, the hail came right to the corner of his property, but didn’t cross.

   “It might have been a little bit prideful,” he said, “thinking that I was untouchable by that kind of stuff.”

   Gavin took over the farm from his father and in total his family has farmed the land for 40 years. He raises potatoes and wheat for seed crops.

   Inside the Rajnus home, they painted Psalm 57:1 over the mantle. It reads, “And in the shadow of your wings I will make my refuge.”

   After the storm, Julie learned the second half of that verse: “until these calamities be overpast.”

   “This is the first time we’ve really had a farm calamity, so we’re just trusting God,” Julie said. “We can’t really see what’s going to happen but I’m sure God has a good plan for it.”

   The storm

   On Aug. 4 Gavin was harvesting grain. He was about halfway through when he saw a storm coming on the harvester’s radar. He couldn’t see it because of all the smoke from wildfires at the time.  

   He took one last trip to the grain bin and headed for the house. When he left the bin it was pouring rain. When he reached his hired help’s home at the bottom of the hill, it was hailing. By the time he got to his home on the hilltop, “it was a total mess,” he said. One piece of hail clipped Gavin’s elbow. On Wednesday he still sported a bruise from impact.

   “There was stones the size of quarters the next morning down through the sagebrush   here,” Gavin said. “It was just solid hail. It fell for about 15 minutes and pretty much just shredded everything.”

   The storm hit at a crucial time. It takes months to grow the potato plant itself, and then in the month before harvest, this month, the plant puts all its work into plumping up the potatoes underground.

   “All I needed was two more weeks on that field and it would have been a decent crop for seed,” Gavin said Wednesday. “If it would have happened today, we would have been in pretty good shape. It wouldn’t have got the grain. It wouldn’t have damaged half of a field down there. We probably would have gotten our money back out of it, at least.”

   The damage

   The worst damage on the Rajnus’ farm was in the 10-acre potato field. The storm also damaged 30 acres of a field along the road, but not as   severely.

   And there was 94-percent damage on the Rajnus’ insured wheat seed grains.

   “It still looks like you can harvest it, because it’s standing up,” Julie said. “But the grain got knocked out of the heads — 94 percent had been knocked out onto the ground.”

   “You think there’s grain in there but there’s not,” Gavin   added. “There’s nothing left.”

   Unlike his grain, the potatoes were not insured.

   “I’ve never done anything on the potatoes because potatoes are generally pretty tough,” Gavin said, “but the storm was just so severe, it hit at the wrong time of the year. They’re not going to come back.”

   Gavin has been careful about how to treat the plants now, only watering the less severely damaged plants once since the storm and not irrigating the field where most of the plants were destroyed.

   “It’s kind of a delicate balance,” Julie said. “The ones that are dead, if he tries to irrigate that field, the water can rot what’s left under there.   You want to save the green but not water the dead.”

   Gavin was unsure what kind of crop may be able to yield from his potato fields. He will likely not harvest the grain, as the cost of fuel would outweigh any harvest.

   “I’m going to dig ‘em, but we’re hoping those plants that appear to be dead, God can make a crop out of them,” he said. “I don’t think water or fertilizer is going to bring it back. I think that we’re just going to have to hope God can do a miracle on these.”    stipler@heraldandnews.com  

  H&N photos by Samantha Tipler

   Top: Gavin Rajnus and his son, Ty, dig into their hail-damaged potato field Thursday to check on the crop’s growth.

  Middle: The Rajus family keeps its faith with Psalm 57:1, “And in the shadow of your wings I will make my refuge,” considering their Shadow Hill farm their own refuge.
  Submitted photo

   LEFT: This photo shows the size of hail that fell on the Rajnus farm Aug. 4. The hail badly damaged the potato and grain crops at the farm near Malin.

  RIGHT: Hail knocked out most of the grain from the plants in Gavin and Julie Rajnus’ fields, amounting to 94-percent loss.



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