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'It was surreal:' Bridger family of Navy veterans win free tractor

Bridger Family
Posted at 6:00 PM, Sep 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-24 10:47:54-04

A Bridger family recently won a brand-new Kubota tractor, as part of a program that works closely with the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

The family has a deep military background as both parents are U.S. Navy veterans and were among five applicants selected out of the 700 that applied to receive the prize.

Their land, which is 40 acres and has nearly 100 chickens and goats combined, has been built up over the past few years without the help of a tractor, and both Chelsey Stimson and Ryan Frehse said it hasn't been easy.

"It's a lot of work," Stimson said. "A lot of work, especially doing it manually yourself without a tractor."

Frehse, a former Navy SEAL, said that the work ethic behind farming aligns with what they learned in the military.

"It's more of a lifestyle, and it fits veterans really well," Frehse said. "There's a lot of veterans out there that want to be independent and self-sufficient as possible."

Frehse admitted that it does take a lot of work. Both he and Stimson have other jobs aside from maintaining their ranch, plus their two-year-old daughter Rose keeps them busy as well.

"We don't have spare time," Frehse said with a smile. "That's how much work it is, I guess. There's no spare time."

Still, they've developed a solid ranch. Their goats are Angora goats, which makes their coat extra fluffy and valuable. Stimson said they still could use an extra hand at times, and that's why she applied for a grant with the Farmer Veteran Coalition hoping to get some help with their fencing.

Stimson feeding goats

"At the end of the grant was the 'Geared to Give' program application to potentially get equipment from Kobota," Stimson said. "I was already at the end of the application, so I figured I might as well fill that out. I never thought we would win."

It turned out to be the right choice. When Stimson heard back that they hadn't been selected for the grant, she assumed that was the end of it. Instead, she received a phone call telling her she had won a tractor, inviting her to the NASCAR race in Kansas City for the celebration.

"It was surreal," Stimson said. "It was surreal and exciting to be there."

Kobota Tractor Vice President Alex Woods said families like Stimson and Freshe's are exactly who this program aims to help.

"A lot of these folks are starting from scratch," Woods said. "They aren't inheriting a big, family-owned property, so it's really awesome to provide them with some equipment that can help them with the early process."

Stimson accepts tractor

Woods said that getting the chance to honor veterans, who are now serving their communities in a different way, makes it extra special.

"We're honoring these folks that have really served their country twice," Woods said. "First time, obviously, through the military service, but then just as importantly, in helping to feed us."

Frehse said they are excited to use the new equipment, which will help them maintain the property in a variety of ways, such as helping set up fences or remove snow in the winter.

"I mean, there's so many uses for a tractor," Frehse said. "Anybody that has one tells you, 'You wouldn't be able to live without one once you have one.' It's exciting all the work we're going to get done."

Stimson said that the new tractor, which arrived on their property Thursday, will help speed up the development of their ranch, making things possible that wouldn't have been for at least a few years.

Tractor arrives in Bridger

"We would not have had this in our sights anytime soon, in terms of what we're trying to build," Stimson said. "It's really going to help us a lot."

But more than that, Frehse said it's great to see an organization providing support for veterans just like themselves.

"There is support out there and resources that'll help you get started in farming or resources that will help you improve your life if you're already doing it," Frehse said. "That's really awesome and I hope this helps more veterans in our position realize that."