April 14 benefit set for injured MSGA director

Wannaska Lions Club holding April 14 event to help Andy Pulk

In late February, Andy Pulk and his wife, Heidi, were all set to fly to Orlando, Fla., for Commodity Classic. The Wannaska farmers were anticipating a reprieve from a brutal Minnesota winter; they were planning to make the trip a working vacation, capped by the completion of the second and final portion of American Soybean Association’s (ASA) Young Leader Program.

“We had been looking forward to it for a long time, really ever since we attended the first portion of the program in Iowa in November,” Pulk says.

Heidi’s parents were in town and ready to take care of the Pulk’s five children. Everything was set. Then, just days before their departure, disaster struck. Andy Pulk was loading wheat into a semi-truck when he slipped and fell, shattering ankle bones in both of his feet.

“The worst part was I landed on concrete,” he says.

He went to a local hospital and was transferred to a hospital two hours away in Grand Forks, N.D. There would be no trip to sunny Florida.

“It was hugely disappointing,” he says.

ASA made sure Andy and Heidi Pulk were there in spirit to complete ASA’s Young Leader Program.

All told, Pulk’s recovery time is estimated at about 10 to 12 weeks, but, along with Heidi and help from employees and friends, he’s still planning to run his farming operation in Roseau County. He can use an electric-powered wheelchair and hopes to use a lift so he can still use his tractor.

“I told Heidi, ‘I’m 95 percent here, but I just can’t walk,’” Pulk says. “It’s going to make spring interesting – it’ll be a challenge.”

Pulk’s community is rallying around him. On Sunday, April 14, the Wannaska Lions Club is hosting a pancake breakfast and raffle from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Wannaska Community Center. All proceeds will go toward defraying the cost of Pulk’s medical bills.

A natural advocate

Just a few days before his accident, Pulk joined other Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) directors in St. Paul to meet with legislators and discuss MSGA’s priorities for 2019 and beyond.

“Advocacy interests me,” says Pulk, who’s a member of MSGA’s advocacy action team. “I like being involved, talking to legislators about being an activist for agriculture and informing them on what our needs are.”

Along with rural mental health and water quality issues, Pulk spoke to state legislators about the Soy Innovation Campus, which would directly impact farmers in the northwest Minnesota region where he farms.

“This would be huge for northwest Minnesota farmers from a value-added and product-demand standpoint,” he says.

Andy Pulk grows more than 2,000 acres of soybeans on his 4,800-acre farm in Wannaska.

Even though Pulk was unable to complete the second portion of the Young Leader Program, he says he’ll apply to attend the third phase of the program, which is held this summer in Washington, D.C.

“Andy’s been a great fit for MSGA, has really taken an interest in advocacy, and we’re hopeful he’ll be selected to attend the session in D.C. this summer,” says MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek. “He’s really shown that he wants to continue pursuing leadership development.”

Once physically able, Pulk plans to join the Roseau/Lake of the Woods County Corn and Soybean Growers board and remain an MSGA director after his at-large term ends.

“I don’t do it for the recognition,” he says. “Hopefully a little bit goes a long way.”

With a late spring looking increasingly likely in Wannaska – in early March, the region was at about 99 percent snow pack, compared to previous years – Pulk figures, with some luck, he’ll able to contribute to spring planting. Either way, he’ll be getting plenty of assistance and support from his family and friends.

“It is what it is,” he says. ‘It won’t be easy but we’ll keep marching forward and not go cry in a corner.”

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