Over 20 Farmers and 50 Volunteers Show Up To Help Harvest Crops After Farmer’s Wife Passes Away

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Farmer Mike Tuinstra from Verndale, Minnesota, lost the love of his life on Nov. 2. Just 40 years old, his wife Shanna was a beloved member of the community, devoted to teaching and bringing agricultural awareness to schools.

Mike said that Shanna passed away while he and his 13-year-old daughter Haylee held her after she had trouble breathing.

She stopped breathing, and when first responders arrived, they could not revive her.

She had an enlarged heart, which may have factored into her passing, but Mike said she died of natural causes.

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“Our heartfelt condolences to the Tuinstra and Keskitalo families as they grieve the sudden loss of Shanna (Keskitalo) Tuinstra, 40, of Verndale (and New York Mills) this past week,” the Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools Facebook page shared on Tuesday.

“Shanna and her husband, Michael, visited WDC Elementary classes in 2018 and 2019 to educate our students about agriculture and its importance. Shanna loved children and the opportunity to visit with kids about farming.”

Two days after her passing, father and daughter wrote a post that they shared from their mother’s Facebook account to let her friends know of the sad news.

“This is my farewell to all you, as written by Haylee and Mikey,” a post from Nov. 4 read. “Hey friends, if you didn’t know I just recently passed away this past Monday.

“The Lord Called me home, [don’t] worry, I am in a better place now with a wonderful eternal father and in a gorgeous home that I am very blessed to have. I will miss all of you greatly and I am sorry I had to leave like this,but I couldn’t pass up a wonderful lifetime chance to get away from this rugged world.

“One thing though, please pray for my husband Mike and daughter Haylee, also my whole family just in general. I [didn’t] want to leave them in a spot like this but it was my time for the Lord Thanks for understanding.”

Mike was left to deal with his loss as a harvest loomed ahead: He had a full crop of corn that he and Shanna would have handled — but now, grieving and without his partner, it was going to be much more difficult.

“We’re a team together,” Mike told the Wadena Pioneer Journal.

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Thankfully, local farmers heard what happened and weren’t about to let one of their own struggle along on his own. Local Chris Neal initially approached Mike with an offer of help on behalf of area farmers, and while Mike resisted at first, eventually he accepted.

On Saturday, the local volunteers filled the roads leading to the farm, bringing tractors, grain carts, combines and semis. In all, there were over 70 people (including more than 20 farmers) who turned up ready to help.

“People used to do this all the time back in the day,” Mike said. The crew did all the work for him as he looked on.

Mike and Haylee have each other as they move forward and process their loss, and they know their community loves them and is willing to back them.

Despite losing her so soon, Mike is thankful for the time he had with Shanna.

“I’m so grateful that [God] waited as long as he did,” he said, “that we could have 13 years together.”

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