Meghan Grebner was “really sick” a few years ago. In place of sending her a bill, the specialist who had treated her sent her a note that said, “Just pay it forward.” Grebner started the Harvest for the Holidays program, which collects donated grain bushels from farmers, sells them and donates the proceeds to charity.

Meghan Grebner was “really sick” a few years ago. Fresh out of college and “a thousand miles from home,” she said she did not have the money to afford all the specialized treatment she needed.


And just when she needed it the most, an act of kindness lifted her spirits and inspired her to make the world a better place. In place of sending her a bill, the specialist who had treated her sent her a note that said, “Just pay it forward.”


Grebner said she wanted to fulfill her promise by mixing her passion for the agriculture industry with something that helped people. She sat down with her father to talk over the possibilities. She had more than eight pages of hand-scribbled notes.


Ultimately, Grebner said she took her inspiration to start the Harvest for the Holidays program from a friend of hers who had obtained a grain cart and picked up donated grain from farmers, sold it and donated the proceeds to charity.


“I wanted to take something that I love and do stuff with every day and help people in need,” Grebner said.


Grebner launched the program Nov. 8 with Larry Herman, the director of Midwest Food Bank. The basic plan is that farmers in eight counties can donate 10 bushels of corn or soybeans at one of the many grain elevators in each county that will sell the grain Dec. 13 and donate the money to Midwest Food Bank to support the organization’s Tender Mercies program, which disseminates a dried, extremely healthy meal packet that can feed four to six people.


Grebner said her goal is to raise between $6,000 and $10,000 from the sale of the donated grain. She said she is hoping to get about 100 total donors for the program to purchase between 12,000 and 20,000 Tender Mercies packets, which cost about 50 cents each to produce.


“That’s a lot of mouths that are getting fed,” Grebner said.


A big part of the efforts is the counties’ farm bureaus and their Young Agriculture Leaders Committees made up of people aged 18 to 35.


Mason County Farm Bureau Manager Dee Dee Gellerman said her organization just began its efforts to spread the word last week with a news release and posters. She said the ease with which farmers can donate should help make the program successful. Most farmers have their grain held in a local grain elevator already and just need to inform the elevator they would like to donate a number of bushels to the program.


“They just need to call their local grain elevator and tell them they want to donate the grain,” Gellerman said. “It’s pretty easy. You’ve got to like those programs. I think it’s a great way to help people in need in this time of Thanksgiving.”


Grebner said she is personally driven by her family’s expectations, and she said she and her family are foregoing exchanging Christmas presents this year to free up funds to donate to more charities.


“I have everything that I ever wanted,” Grebner said. “(Helping others) is so much more important than any material thing.”