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Several Montanans are in Israel to help manage farmland

Several Montanans are in Israel to help manage farmland
Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-20 20:13:30-05

BILLINGS — Three Montana farmers have been living in Israel for the past few weeks, helping tend farmland during the war with Hamas

The farmers are a part of an organization called Hayovel, which has been present in Israel for nearly 20 years, and brings American farmers to the country to help however they can.

The three Montana farmers are John Plocher, who lives near Hamilton, and brothers Yoseph and Ezekiel Strain, who live near Augusta. They are also joined by Luke Hutslar, a farmer from Arkansas.

All of the men have helped with Israel through the Hayovel program before, and were contacted following the Hamas attacks on October 7, which led to violence breaking out across the region. All said the decision to help was an easy one.

"It's completely brutal. Really, they're not saying it on the news because it's just so bad," Plocher said in a web call Monday morning. "A lot of people say they support Israel, but it's one thing saying it and it's another thing actually doing it. It's important that we help when we can."

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Hutslar said that the group has helped with different farms in the area because many of the farmers have been called into reserve positions within the nation's military. They'll do anything from fielding crops to building fences.

"Just the kinds of things that people don't necessarily think about that would be in trouble during these difficult times," Hutslar said. "It's just good to be there and help how we can."

The farmers agreed that they aren't frightened to be in a war zone. They all said that the area they are working in is pretty safe, but they did acknowledge that there is noticeable tension.

"There's a certain sense of peace about it," Plocher said. "I don't think any of us are scared or worried. I think we know where we stand and we're standing strong on it, but you do feel the tension. At any moment you're surrounded by the same people that committed the attacks on October 7th."

The Strain brothers agreed with Plocher, and Yoseph admitted that while it maybe isn't the safest place to be, in their eyes, it's the right thing to do.

"When they called, he was on speaker phone with Zeke and I and he said, 'If there's anywhere in the world that needs you right now, it's Israel,'" Strain said. "And that pretty much settled it for me. I wasn't going to ignore that message."

Ezekiel said that all of the men left responsibilities and their families in America but that they each knew how impactful their help in Israel could be.

"There's definitely stuff back home that should be getting done," Strain said. "I've got a lot of hay that needs to be getting sold, but honestly we knew we needed to be here. We dropped what we were doing and came over as quick as we could."

Hayovel Operating Director Joshua Waller said he recruited these four farmers specifically because he knew they would be up to the task.

"It's the kind of situation where you want to bring in guys that you know are going to be good," Waller said. "It's not a walk in the park here. It's a pretty intense situation, so we're bringing guys that are well aware of what's going on."


On top of helping with Israeli farms, Hayovel has helped raise more than $2 million for Jewish villages, purchasing everything from bulletproof jackets and helmets to drones in the fight against Hamas.

But at the end of the day, each of the farmers are grateful for the opportunity to help knowing that every small hand they lend can make a major impact in a place that needs it.

"A lot of people say they support Israel, but it's one thing saying it, and it's another thing actually doing it," Plocher said. "We just knew we needed to be here."