High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest

Janel: Miss Moo And I Have New Wheels

Holdrege, Nebraska – Holy cow!  It’s springtime already, and there are no more days off.  Harvest is quickly approaching, and there is so much to do and so little time.  It’s always a stressful time of year trying to get everything ready for harvest.  I certainly have feelings of not only stress but also fear and anxiety during this time of year due to having to hire the crew too.  I have been going on harvest my entire life.  However, it’s a big job getting ready for harvest – no doubt about it.  I am blessed though because of who I get to go to harvest with!  No joke.  The best part about harvest for me is getting to work alongside my family, including my Dad and Mom (LaVern and Carlene Schemper), two brothers (JC and Jared) and Uncle Lonny.  In the springtime, it is such a relief to finally make it to our first harvest stop 500 miles south of here.  The stress of going to harvest is finally gone, and then the focus is on cutting wheat and doing a good job every single day.

The most exciting news I have to share with you about the 2017 harvest is that Miss Moo and I have new wheels! If you know me well enough, you know my dog’s name is Maggie Moo, but we call her Moo.  She has gone on harvest with me since she was a puppy, so this will be her ninth harvest. She knows the routine all too well.  Moo loves the harvest just as much as I do, and she loves being my shotgun rider just as much as I love having her with me everywhere I go!  We have had the same combine for the past four years.  Since we got our new combine recently, I have never been so glad to have a new combine.  The combine market has been terrible the past few years and getting a new combine every year for harvest hasn’t been in the cards.  However, I really lucked out having a good combine to get through the tough (market) times.  It was a 2013 model, and overall it was a good combine.  The engine fan upper and lower drives failed which was a major breakdown and the combine was down 5 days during wheat harvest, which was terrible.  I have never had a combine break down for an entire day before so this breakdown was awful.  The three wires on the turbo melted (twice – a year apart) and had holes in them due to the couplers being too tight.  The fan blades broke twice, and the alternator belt broke too during fall harvest.  Other than that, the combine ran unbelievably well for the four years I ran it.  Although, it did have many dollars in parts replacements done during the offseason. 

Are you totally in love with harvest yet?  One reason I didn’t want to let go of that combine, in particular, was because it didn’t use DEF.  I heard that DEF was Obama’s doings.  I am hoping my friend President Donald Trump will get rid of the need for DEF.  I do not agree with having to have it.  Who does?  What is great about President Trump is that when he says he is going to do something, he does it.  He gets things done.  That is the kind of man you want to have around.

I am looking forward to the 2017 harvest – no doubt. I always pray for safety and success not only for myself but also for all the harvesters that have chosen this business to make a living.  It’s not an easy living.  You have to earn every penny!  I really love the day when we finally have everything loaded up and ready, so we can go south for the harvest.  I’m not talking about the first trip.  It takes two trips for me to get south for wheat harvest.  For the first trip, I will drive a Peterbilt and haul my combine and a grain trailer.  For the second trip, I will drive a Peterbilt with a triple-axle grain trailer.  What I love about the harvest is all of the good people we get to see each year.  The small towns are really fading though, and it’s a shame.  We need more good people in small towns to keep them going.  It seems that most young people from small towns leave and go to the big cities and don’t come back.  I doubt that’ll ever be me.  I like my wide open country all too well, where I can drive and not be in somebody’s way.  No really, small towns are the place to be.

I can’t wait to share my day-to-day harvest experiences with you all for the 2017 season! I appreciate the High Plains Journal and All Aboard Wheat Harvest partners for giving me this opportunity.

I’ve included one of my favorite harvest recipes, and it’s called BBQ Meatballs, but I call it Ketchup Meatballs because once they are cooked all you need is some ketchup!

Meatballs: 3 lbs ground beef, 1 12 oz can evaporated milk, 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup saltine cracker crumbs, 2 eggs, a dash of onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
Sauce: 2 cups ketchup, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp liquid smoke, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder and 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce or country bob’s

Mix the meatball ingredients, and shape them into balls. Brown in a skillet. Then place in a baking pan.  Mix the sauce ingredients, and pour over the meatballs.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere.  Janel Schemper can be reached at janel@allaboardharvest.com. 

Schemper Harvesting
Miss Moo and I got new wheels! (photo by Janel)
Schemper Harvesting
Moo and I in the combine waiting on a tractor grain cart during corn harvest! (photo by Janel)
Schemper Harvesting
Moo and I at the elevator in the truck waiting in line during corn harvest! (photo by Janel)
Schemper Harvesting
Moo and I in South Dakota on a hot and humid summer morning! (professional photo taken by my friend Megan Sugden)
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Laura: Surprise Blizzard
Laura Haffner


Park, Kansas –  I had a funny feeling this year that we may catch a late cold snap, however, if someone would have told me we would have a good old fashioned prairie blizzard starting April 29th, I probably would have shaken my head.  Freeze yes, blizzard no.  But blizzard AND freeze are what happened in western Kansas where our headquarters is located. 

It was quite an ordeal for our crew as they come from various winter weather backgrounds (some with none).  Albert, one of our returning veterans, said, “The blizzard was definitely a surreal experience.  Only saw that on TV normally.  Being stranded without electricity and water made you appreciate the small things in life more, the stuff we normally take for granted.  And to be honest, I’m more of a sunny and blue sky kind of person!” Pieter, another third-year member said, “It was really cold.  When they expected that much snow, I didn’t really think it was possible just because it’s almost the end of April! When it started snowing it was really fun for some of the guys, just because it was their first time to experience snow!  Kansas is a great state, cause you never know what you’re going to get!”

When I got to headquarters the following Friday after the storm, I asked one of the new crew members his thoughts on the storm and if it would be a story for the books.  He commented, “Well, at least we survived.” I  don’t think he initially believed me when I told him that in my time living in Kansas, I hadn’t seen that,  it wasn’t a normal occurrence to have a storm of that magnitude in late April, and he was in on a history-making event! 

Fortunately, there was a generator at the farm, but luckily, the hard working lineman restored electricity to headquarters a few days after the storm.  We so appreciate their efforts out in the adverse conditions.  Others in the area were out until the following weekend. 

HPH-2017 (Photo Credit - Pieter)
HPH-2017 (Photo Credit – Pieter)
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Pieter)
Pieter contributed these two pictures above at the beginning of the storm. It was pretty “G” rated at this point and just slightly cringe worthy temperature!
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Pieter)
By the next morning, we knew for sure that this storm wasn’t messing around when Pieter texted this.
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Pieter)
They decided to build a fort, but it got a little cold. (Photo contributed by Pieter)
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Albert)
But, that didn’t stop them from making a little snowman! Pictured are Odendaal, Pieter, and Albert. (Photo contributed by Albert)
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Pieter)
Andre and Pieter got a snow day picture together. (Photo contributed by Pieter)
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Pieter)
Pieter, the human tape measure! He’s a pretty tall guy and the snow was up to his knees! (Photo contributed by Pieter)
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Laura)
A wait-and-see game. A lot of the wheat started standing back up, but you can see patches still down in this field. (Photo credit: Laura)
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Laura)
The edges of this field were struggling to stand up. (Photo credit: Laura)
HPH-2017 Blizzard (Photo Contributed by Laura)
By the following Friday, all that was left of the snow around the farm was in some ditches, side hills, and shaded spots. (Photo Credit: Laura)

The wheat has perked up cosmetically, which is quite amazing really after all it has been through.  The real truth to the extent of the damage will come in the days to follow.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Laura can be reached at laura@allaboardharvest.com

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Laura: Crew Update
Laura Haffner

I’m not sure which is more surprising to me, that it’s nearly time for wheat harvest or that we are starting our third year as a member of the All Aboard Wheat Harvest family. Where has the time gone? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I would like to just hit the pause button, even if for an hour or so!

I’ve been contemplating this opening post for some time and wish I had something incredibly insightful or clever to say. Truth be told, it has just been business as usual for our family over the last several months. However, as an adult, I’ve learned to be just as thankful for the times of regular little ups and downs as I am for those mountain top experiences.

Ryan doesn’t slow down much in the off season as there is always something to be done with the crew, contract work, honey-dos, the farm, and ranch. I think there’s an old saying about the two certainties in one’s life being death and taxes. Well, I think in our case it can be death (hopefully WAY down the line), taxes, and paper work! The good thing about paperwork days is that we may get the treat of having him come in for lunch! We love the luxury of having him around a little more this time of year but are appreciative of the additional sacrifices and hard work he puts in to take care of us during harvest season.

It is always a treat to get to hang out with dad at the farm! (Photo credit: Laura)
That is some impressive tight parking! (Photo Credit: Laura)

In the off season I continue to work in the “office” on the books, but it’s not quite as intense as it is from late March to November. I enjoy being involved on a church committee and serve on our local Farm Bureau board and dabble with a little photography from time to time. Of course chasing kids keeps things a little crazy but fun. Little Man and Lady A are doing great. Lady A has probably had the most changes developmentally from last season until now and it has been fun watching her little personality emerge. Little Man has been training his crew on the carpet for months now. They should hit the ground running when we get to Texas! They are both such a joy to Ryan and I!  

Enough about us, let’s get you caught up on the crew!

The crew poses for a group photo after Mark’s and Jill’s wedding last fall.

Mark has been with us since we took over the business, and Jill, his wife, regularly contributes photos when she travels to visit Mark. They were married last fall and our family and crew, enjoyed attending their wedding and reception. You may remember that he proposed in a wheat field in Montana. The harvest theme continued for their nuptials. With Jill’s blessing, the crew secretly prepared Mark’s combine and surprised Mark by driving it to the church for use for photos and a getaway vehicle. It was a memorable day for sure!  

Harold remains on the team. He trucks for us in the off season and steps in from time to time during summer harvest. You may recall he is affectionately called “Opa” by the other crew members. Don’t let the name fool you! He can still hang with the guys more than half his age!

This year we have six returning seasonal crew members. Albert and Pieter are starting their third season with us. We will be looking to them for leadership due to their experience with the crew. Willem and Shaun are beginning their second year and also have plentiful experience and leadership to share. Odendaal and Stefan started with us towards the end of wheat harvest and continued through the end of fall harvest. We look for them to build on that experience from last year. We are excited to welcome these capable young men back to the crew this year.

2017 Crew - April -HPH Pieter
Its hard to get a group photo this time of the year with all the crew going in different directions daily. They came through for me with the help of their trusty selfie stick when all the guys were snowed in at the farm. (Photo Credit: Pieter)

We have four new members starting their summer adventure. Bert is from Australia and has traveled in the US prior to this.  Andre is a friend of Willem, and joins us from South Africa.  James, Leigh, and Dan hail from the Isle of Man and this is their first time to our country.  They are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime!

HPH 2017
A partial group picture. Some of the crew was out hauling when this was taken. Hopefully we can get the full crew together soon!
HPH 2017 - Blizzard
Pieter standing out in the snow.

Now that you have met the crew, where are we planning to travel this year? The current idea is to start in Texas and end the wheat season in Montana and North Dakota respectively with stops in between. The outlook for the 2017 harvest season is a little unsettling right now. At the time I was typing this article, we were just two days out of a major, surprise, late season blizzard that struck parts of our territory on April 28 and 29. The wheat crop was looking promising in many areas. Much was in the boot or had just started heading. We are in a waiting game to see how the crop responds to the freezing temperatures and/or snow. For better or worse, this is the game we play as harvesters. Like our farmers and others in the agriculture community, we will just have to roll with the situation and do the best we can.

I think you’re back up to speed with the news surrounding High Plains Harvesting. So what happened to you since the last time we were together? Feel free to comment below with what’s new with you! It’s always a joy to hear from you!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Laura can be reached at laura@allaboardharvest.com
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Steph: New Perspectives
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – Harvest time. I doubt there will ever come a time when I don’t start mentally packing for it come mid-April. My mind will wander off, daydreaming about wheat fields, and next thing I know I’m checking my apps for wheat prices, weather reports for that first stop on the wheat run and yield projections. Some friends of mine started combining in southern Texas a week or so ago and were sending me Snapchats of their combines in the wheat… I got goosebumps.

For those of you new to the program this year, here’s a quick synopsis of me. My name is Stephanie (Steph) Osowski. I’m a third generation custom harvester and am hopelessly addicted to the lifestyle. My family has always custom harvested so all my best childhood memories are either in a wheat field or somewhere along the wheat belt. My mom is Loree, my dad is Bob and I have one (not-so-little) brother named Brandon. He’s 20-years old and a total farm kid. He finished up his first year of college for farm management this spring. I obtained my four-year degree in Agricultural Economics with a minor in Animal Science from North Dakota State University (Hail the Bison). I grew up in the small, rural town of Grafton, ND and adopted many of the rural ways of life. Working the harvest circuit keeps me busy from May till the tentative time of slowdown, which varies from October to December. In the off months, I do as much traveling as I can (previous years I have traveled to Thailand, Australia and South Africa), over-the-road truck, nanny, assist at a daycare and substitute teach. Combines and kids — two of my biggest loves in life. A couple years ago, I met a handsome South African named Peter at a trailer park in Kansas and we have been an item ever since. That about sums me up!

Change comes in all shapes and sizes. The only thing that stays the same about change is that it is inevitable. Not only will I be driving John Deere combines this summer but I also made the adult decision to work for a different crew this 2017 harvest. I have my family to thank for everything that I have learned about harvest and the intense passion that they have instilled in me for the industry but, I feel it is time for me to break free so I can see and experience how the other kids do it. My long term goal is to be the boss of my very own crew so the more perspective I can get, the better. One of Peter’s favorite sayings is “there are many ways to skin a cat” and I think the same thing can be said about harvesting a crop; there are many ways.

As for my winter travels, I went to South Africa/Europe this winter, just as I mentioned in my farewell post for the 2016 season, and we were able to spend much-needed time with Peter’s family and friends. The best part of going there in the North Dakotan winter months? It’s summer in South Africa. So I’m sending home pictures of the big, beautiful sun while my family and friends back in the States send me pictures of big, blustery blizzards. Peter has a job in Mississippi this year so together we had to make yet another adult decision and do the long distance thing for a few months because the job market in Mississippi for my skill-set is a bit weak. God bless technology.

Fun fact (or, not so fun, depending on your perspective); the amount of winter wheat planted in the United States is the lowest it has ever been since the year 1909. Who am I kidding, that’s a pretty intimidating fact to read from a custom harvesters perspective. However, there are still around 32.4 million acres out there that need to be harvested! I’m an eternal optimist, in case you hadn’t noticed. 🙂

Anderson Harvesting (party of 3) will be be commencing summer wheat harvest towards the last week in May and heading to our first stop on the run — Seymour, Texas. I haven’t harvested wheat in Texas since I was a kid so I’m pretty excited about this! This harvest is going to be chalk full of new harvest stops and new people which means lots of new things for me to blog about.

2017 wheat harvest — bring it on.  


Gorgeous mountains on the way to the beach.
Gorgeous mountains on the way to the beach.
Hey guys, I found Mufasa.
South African countryside.
South African countryside.
Baby lion!
Baby lion!
Steph - Grafton, ND
Baby tiger! I got to play with 3 baby lions and 1 baby tiger for about an hour. It was the absolute coolest experience.
Steph - Grafton, ND
If this guy would have fit in my luggage, he would be a house cat.
Beach lovin'.
Steph and Peter — beach lovin’.
Canals in Amsterdam.
Canals in Amsterdam.
Just doing tourist things in Amsterdam.
Some of my favorite tiny humans from the daycare I help out at in the winter.
Some of my favorite tiny humans from the daycare I help out at in the winter.
Group selfie before departure!
From left to right; Peter, Steph, mom (Loree), dad (Bob) and brother Brandon.
The route to Texas.
The route to Texas, not so accurately projected by Google maps.
I dream of wheat.
I dream of wheat.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.
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Tracy: Anticipation
Z Crew

Manley, Nebraska – The old cliche’ holds true…the older you get, the faster time goes. Jim and I have had numerous discussions regarding this thought. He doesn’t agree with me and for that, I’m jealous. I am one that wants to hold onto the special events as long as I can and then try to recall every minute of it somewhere down the road. The years seem to zoom by and when I say, “I can’t believe it’s been 30 years ago that happened” – he’ll say, “it seems that long ago”. Maybe he’s just denying the fact. Maybe he’s got a better grasp on time than I do. Who knows. The fact is…I can’t believe this is our 35th year of owning a combine and making the wheat harvest journey! 

For those who know my story, this will probably bore you. For those who don’t, maybe you’ll find it interesting. 

My grandparents were custom harvesters. Grandpa owned a combine for most of his life (even as a young man) but didn’t hit the highways until the early 1950’s. So…this gypsy blood runs deep. When I was 12 years old, my grandparents asked me if I’d like to tag along for the summer – helping grandma with the crew was the intention. But, as luck had it, I was asked to stick around the field one day and help grandpa. I was hooked! Jim worked for my grandparents for a couple of summers as a hired man. We were married April 1982. Our young family (which only consisted of Jamie and Jenna at the time) took off on our own the summer of 1990. The girls (numbering four, after Taylor and Callie joined the group) grew up travelling the highways. Now, it’s just the two of us again. 

As years go, the kids grow. Jamie is married to Curt and they have two little ones (Eli – 4 and Nora – 2) and expecting baby #3 on July 17. I’m hoping something will allow me to come home at that time and help out a bit. But, if there’s wheat to cut, it probably won’t happen. The sacrifices we make! Jenna was one of the first correspondents for All Aboard in 2009. After college graduation, she landed a job with CLAAS of North America and continues to work there today. Taylor (who carried on with All Aboard after Jenna) is now married to Colten. This leaves Callie. Callie just finished her first year of college at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

2017 ZCrew Family Pic
The Z Crew – Left to right – Colten and Taylor Josoff, Jim, me, Jenna and Callie.

The Hermesch Family
The Hermesch family – Curt, Jamie, Eli (4) and Nora (2)

The combine is in the yard, the rose bush is blooming (which used to be the gauge for heading south), the temps are heating up and I’m beginning to see combines moving south on Facebook. The anticipation of harvest 2017 has begun. It’s a mixed up feeling right now. I’m anxious to get on the road because it’s what we do…it’s our livelihood…it’s what we have to do. BUT, leaving the kids behind is not easy!! I used to believe loading the trailer house was the worst part of this life. Now, it’s saying goodbye to the kids. 

The Roseometer
The Roseometer
I do, however, look forward to sharing our adventures (good and bad) with you again this summer! You are my reason for writing and telling our story. This way of life is like none other and it’s not for the faint of heart. Sacrifices are made, tempers get heated, electricity is sometimes missing, cell service is not the best, sometimes we don’t even have running water BUT it’s our life. And I want to share all of it with you – not just through words but also through the Combine Cam! The story needs to be told!

If you’ve been one of our loyal followers…welcome back! If you’re new to all of this, I hope you learn something new each time you see a post or view a picture. If you ever have any questions or comments, please be sure to say something! So…harvest 2017…let’s get this party started!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Tracy Zeorian can be reached at zcrew@allaboardharvest.com
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Janel: Wheat Harvest Is My Summer Routine

Holdrege, Nebraska – Hello!  I am Janel Schemper and this is my first AAWH blog.  I am a third generation custom harvester.  I’ve been going on harvest my entire life.  The 1950s was the start of my family business known as “Schemper Harvesting.”  My grandpa, Jerry Schemper, was brave enough to leave his farm and went out on the road and made himself a living in the custom harvesting business.  My Dad, LaVern Schemper, is the oldest of six kids and is a second generation custom harvester.  I have a lifelong bond with my parents (LaVern and Carlene) and three older siblings (Julie, JC and Jared) through our family business.  The combine cab was where I spent my time with my Dad or siblings riding along with them and learned all about operating a combine.  Otherwise, my time was spent riding with my Mom in a truck hauling many loads of grain to the elevators or grain storage sites.  When we would move from location to location and travel across the Great Plains states following the wheat belt, I would ride with my Dad in a truck hauling a combine and I always felt better riding along with Dad.  He always found a way to include me and taught me that part of being boss is keeping your eyes on everyone and double-checking everything.  He’d say, “Janel, look in the mirror and tell me who you see behind us.”  So, I’d go down the line first to last saying something like this, “white top, red top, #3, junior, the pickup and trailer house” and so on, you get the picture.  He had a way of being organized and professional and he always made me proud and happy just being with and working alongside him.  At the time, I never thought I’d one day be the one to be taking the lead and driving a truck and hauling a combine down the road.  I have always enjoyed getting to be a part of the harvest crew!  Some things just never change! 😉

When I was thirteen years old, I was operating a combine full-time during the summer months.  That was 20+ years ago.  After I finished my school years, I continued harvesting and our harvests typically last seven to eight months each year.  The years have gone by far too quickly.  As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get out of school for the summer and go harvesting.  I just always looked forward to the harvest.  As soon as I weighed enough to keep the combine header going due to a micro switch in the combine seat, I was in the driver’s seat.  However, the combine header would occasionally shut off during my teenage years due to my “light weight.”  I would sometimes have to set a coffee can full of nuts and bolts on my combine seat armrest to add the necessary weight and I made it work just fine.

Going on harvest has kept me super busy.  Harvest for me is definitely the best way to grow up!  I would not have had it any other way.  I will always be in love with all of those amber waves of grain!  It is always quite the sight!  For the rest of my life, harvest time will always hold a special place in my heart.  To my family it is not so much a job; it has become a tradition and a way of life that is now into the fourth generation.  I will continue to support our family harvesting business in the growing generations. 

The work ethic I have gained through each harvest season has been a great learning experience and I continue to learn and polish my skills every single day.  I was taught early on that it takes a lot of work to be a harvester.  Typical days in the field are 12-18 hours and is what it takes to get the job done.  I learned responsibility at a young age.  My Dad taught me all that and I learned to accept and do what was expected of me and to not ever complain about work but be glad for the opportunity and ability to work.  I have also learned about patience through the custom harvesting business.  It sometimes seems that we are in the “hurry up and wait” business.  We may push hard to get to our next job or field and start cutting only to find that the crop is not ready yet or it’s happened before where a rain shower beat us to it.  Sitting and waiting for grain to dry is sometimes what we have to do.  Heat and wind are often what it takes to get the appropriate harvesting conditions we need to make progress.  The weather plays a huge role in our day to day work and can be quite the challenge. 

When people ask me questions like don’t you miss being home or how can you stand to be away from home for so long and I always think of our military.  Our military service men and women sacrifice their life for our country.  They leave home and fight for our country.  Some do not get to come back home (alive) and some come back injured and others have PTSD.  What I do for a living is possible because of their sacrifice.  My Dad is a veteran and it’s just been instilled in me to think about the bigger picture.  The United States of America is the land of the free because of the brave.  Have that for a mindset while harvesting (away from home) and you’ll do just fine.

I’ve gained a lot by being able to experience the “American Harvest” year after year.  I’ve always felt fortunate that I have a family to get to go to harvest with.  It is a unique occupation no doubt about it and it is not for everyone.  It takes an exceptional work ethic, excellent work habits, honesty, responsibility, a grown up attitude and serious business professionalism and dedication to fulfill a harvest season year after year (typically May through November).  The future of agriculture will always be exciting in my opinion.  I want to be a part of the continuous excitement.  I’d like to dedicate this blog today to those who know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to appreciating the amber waves of grain and this beautiful country and lifestyle.  Thank you to all that have contributed to the success of my family business, Schemper Harvesting from Holdrege, Nebraska.

This is Janel Schemper in a Nebraska wheat field.
Jared, JC, Lonny and LaVern are the Schemper Harvesting partners.
This is a picture of the Schemper family in the 1980s and left to right is JC, Julie, Jared, Janel (me) and my Dad LaVern. We had just gotten to our first harvest stop that we still have to this day! You can see the standing water behind the Texas sign and like it has happened many times before, we get there and it rains.
Janel Schemper in a truck in a wheat field 1980s.
Here is an excellent crew if you ever saw one! Look at all of those smiles! These guys know how to work for a living! We always appreciate the good guys that like to work! (photo by Janel)
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere.  You can contact Janel at janel@allaboardharvest.com
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Lindsey: The To-Do List is Full

Cheyenne, OK- Wheat harvest is near, but we have a “few” things to do before then. I am Lindsey Orgain with Orgain Harvesting in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. This will be my husband Jason’s 12th year in business. We were married on May 5, 2012 and were in Grandfield, Oklahoma cutting wheat on May 7. Talk about a romantic honeymoon! I cannot believe that was five years ago.

May 6, 2017 – Some of our wheat near Hammon, OK

In addition to our harvest business we also farm about 2,500 acres and run about 500 head of stockers and cow/calf pairs (depending on the time of the year) with Jason’s folks. We have primarily grown wheat, but are preparing to put our first cotton crop in the ground. It has been a winter full of meetings, research and brainstorming trying to figure out the best approach to this new crop. I think all of our heads have been in a constant spin to say the least! We are gearing up to plant about 850 acres within the next few weeks.
February 21, 2017- The first couple of calves during the winter calving season

Did I mention we are expecting a little bundle any day now? We are in our final days as a family of 3 and are very much looking forward to meeting our baby girl. Mason, our 3 year old, is gradually coming to terms with sharing the spot light. He has been such a blessing to our entire family and we are all excited to see him take on the role of “Big Brother.” With the month of May being jam-packed, we made the decision to not head South this year and instead start our wheat harvest run here at home. We still have a few repairs and upgrades to do to our equipment, but are not sweating it too much since we will be our first customers this season. Weather permitting, we are looking at the first week of June before we get the combine in the field.
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April 22, 2017- Participating in the 2017 Old Settlers Parade in Cheyenne, Oklahoma

Cotton planting, a new baby and harvest preparations. No big deal…right?! I am looking forward to sharing our story with you all this summer. It’s always an adventure for sure! We are in a unique line of work and I think it is such a privilege to get to spend our days working together and making memories that will last a lifetime. There are good days and bad days, but at the end of all of them we get to be together and that’s something I don’t take for granted.

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All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Lindsey Orgain can be reached at lindsey@allaboardharvest.com

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Order the 2017 All Aboard Wheat Harvest Calendar
Order the 2017 All Aboard Wheat Harvest Calendar avatar

The holidays are just around the corner and this calendar is the perfect gift! 

The All Aboard Wheat Harvest Calendar features a collection of harvest photos taken by the All Aboard correspondents and the winner of our photo contest. Visit hpj.com/store or call 800-353-1841 to order your calendar

Price: $5.95
*$4.95 if ordering 5 or more.
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Soaking up the Moments
Z Crew

Manley, Nebraska – 
It really does feel like it was all just a dream. 

I believe when we’re in the moment, we just can’t fully absorb everything that is given to you at the time. I believe this is true with anything you’re doing, especially the moments that really mean a lot to you. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there’s A LOT of harvest that I would just as soon never have to remember again! But, for the most part, it’s what I love, it’s what I know, it’s what grew a strong family and EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. I go through this same sort of “harvest letdown.” 

Things are beginning to feel back to normal for being “home, home.” We arrived at the farm Thursday, September 29, where Jim will spend the next six weeks (more or less). We unloaded the Beast and gathered our overnight bags and headed home. Jim got up the very next day, hooked up the header, changed a few things from wheat to soybeans and he was off. Back in the harvest field and in the harvest schedule. 

Not so much for me. I have spent the last week trying to acclimate to the real world and getting the trailer house unloaded, cleaned and ready to go in storage. This is where the struggle is real for me. Especially this year. It is even more difficult because Callie is gone. I keep thinking she’ll come through the door any second and it doesn’t happen. So, I try to focus on the job in front of me and keep going. This is where the summer harvest, the daily schedule and being on the road feels like a dream.  Thank goodness for this blog and all my pictures to prove to my brain that it DID happen. So, when the question comes out of everyone’s mouth, “How was your summer?”, I can look back and recall. And what do I tell them? Well, it sorta goes something like this…

It was an interesting summer! Before we left home, we didn’t have a starting point. However, God is good and “wheaties” are too! Because of a fellow custom harvester, we were able to land a job in Claude, Texas. We got there, set up and waited for about ten days before we got started. We found out the farmer we cut for was a really great guy and the town of Claude was just as nice. The crop was below average, due to drought and hail. If I remember, it averaged about 25-30 bushels per acre.
Z Crew: It's what you do when you're a harvester.
Z Crew: This is what it looks like when you're cutting wheat.
We moved to Garden City, Kan. and found some phenomenal yields! Who would have guessed you’d ever see 100+ bushels being harvested off of dry land? It was the most amazing crop our farmer had ever seen! The Garden City heat is like none other!! Whew!
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
While we were still in Garden City, we found out the farmers we usually cut for at Matheson, CO didn’t feel they could justify hiring us, due to high input costs and the current struggling crop prices. Understandable, yet what do we do now? God is good and so are “wheaties!” Ryan and Casey Graham said we could help them with their job in the same area that we would be heading to had we not just lost the job. So, we headed towards Matheson and found different fields and different farmers for the next couple of weeks. As it turned out, we did end up helping our original farmers for the last couple days of their harvest. And, better yet, we were able to park the trailer house in the same location we were in a year ago – at the farm – which is where it would sit for the next 2 1/2 months. The wheat in eastern Colorado was also an amazing crop. One that left the farmers scrambling and wondering what to do for storage. If you were lucky, you got the loads to the elevator when they had SOME room. Most of the crop went into grain bins on the farm, in bags or in piles on the ground.
Z Crew: It's what harvesters do.
We opted not to make the trip to Montana again this year. This breaks my heart. Another life lesson…always enjoy where you are at the moment and soak it all up because it may not ever be again. I wish I would have soaked it up a bit more. I never, ever, ever thought there would come a time that we wouldn’t be making that trek north. And every time I allow my mind to drift back to that country, it brings a tear to my eye. Seriously.

Instead, we did something new and different – we headed for the San Luis Valley to help Ryan and Casey again. What a wonderful experience! The two weeks we were there, we harvested barley. Most of this barley was cut for the MillerCoors facility located in Monte Vista. To be able to work surrounded by mountains was amazing – another one of those moments when you just couldn’t soak it all in or even take enough pictures! When the time came for the proso millet to be picked up back on the farm in eastern Colorado, we made that trip back over the pass for our final job on the road.
The proso didn’t do as well as it did last year – I think it averaged closer to 33 bushels per acre. It was well into the mid 40’s or better last year. The number of acres that were allotted for the Beast were met and it was time to head home…not a moment too soon!

The weather played a huge part of the summer of 2016! It seemed like the rains came early and just never stopped. I know other harvesters were plagued by the same issue, so it wasn’t just us (although it felt like it was). I tried to keep the Combine Cam rolling as much as possible and yet it seemed like the rain had it shut off more. I’m hoping a few of you were able to check it out at least once this summer. And, I have a feeling if you didn’t, it will be there again next summer. Did you sit in the buddy seat with me at least once? Thank you, ITC Holdings Corp. and Kiowa County Media Center for making this amazing tool possible!!!
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!

This catches you up to where we’re at now. Jim and the Beast are busy as we speak. The farmer we help is very close to home (about 30 miles) and only needs the combine and driver. We have helped him for the past 25 years (or more) so he and his family have been a part of ours. We both have watched our kids grow, get married and now enjoying grandchildren. They’ve attended graduations and weddings – they’re family. 

The weather is, once again, messing with the process. The rains continue which makes Jim have to switch heads a little more often. If the ground is muddy, the draper comes off and the corn head gets put on – making the switch from soybeans to corn. If everything works, Jim should be done and have all the equipment in the shed for winter storage before Thanksgiving. 

As for me, I’m going to continue to get the trailer house ready for its winter nap, rid the flower gardens of the weeds and help Taylor get ready for a November 12 wedding. If you’re ever wondering what we’re up to, head on over to www.nebraskawheatie.com and see if I’ve taken a few extra minutes to write. Sometimes, writing down my words seems like a chore but once I get going, they seem to flow pretty easily…

Thank you for keeping up with our journey this summer! I had some really big shoes to fill when I agreed to take over this job from the girls. I hope you enjoyed my storytelling as much as I KNOW you enjoyed theirs! Thank you to High Plains Journal and ALL sponsors for making this possible! You’ve given me and the other correspondents the outlet to tell the rest of the world what it takes to get their food from the field to their table. We couldn’t do this without you!!! 

God bless you and if it’s His will, I’ll be telling my stories again next summer.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
The final load.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
Just enough wiggle room to get under – on our way “home, home.”
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
Babysitting Eli means going to the park and playing!
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
EM Homecoming – Callie relinquishing the crown.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
Celebrating Callie’s 19th birthday with a campfire, hot dogs and s’mores.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
“16 plus 3” candles = 19
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. The Z Crew can be reached at zcrew@allaboardharvest.com.
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The Lingering Harvest of 2016
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – It is October 6th and I sit here being able to tell you that we are not done with wheat harvest yet. Sugar beets are being harvested, potatoes are being dug, soybeans and edibles are being combined and there is still some wheat that has yet to be taken off. We have had some desperate calls from farmers in the area that normally wouldn’t have their wheat custom harvested but since they can’t get through their fields with their wheeled-combines, the one combine we had tracks put on has been a busy little bumblebee. Dad has switched out the concaves on the combine with tracks at least 3 different times because he switches crops so often. It still amazes me how that thing can just drive right through water standing in the field. However, we have discovered it isn’t a foolproof system — the track combine has still been stuck. We have had anything from a tank puller to a 4-wheel drive tractor having to yank us out of some of the holes we have found ourselves in. It is truly unbelievable. As for the rest of Osowski Ag,  Brandon is helping out until the bitter end when college will start for him in November. Mom has gotten back on her regular work wagon but occasionally will spoil us and still bring supper out to the field.

The days have been long and the nights have been… well, the same actually. This time of year is the time to buckle down and get as much work in as you can to prepare for the long winter months. What I mean is this; dad needs help during the day for wheat/bean harvest and then Peter and I have a farmer that I take night shift for driving beet truck. I have been told recently that if you stack your feet on top of one another, try to nap and your feet topple to the sides that that is enough rest and you are good for another 8-hours. I think that is a trick I may put to the test before long. It still doesn’t know how to quit raining up here seeing as we received around half an inch in the last couple days- so that’s fun. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all you readers out there for your continued support of this program and our crazy lifestyles we love. This year has certainly been an interesting one but if I’m being honest, that’s something I can truly say for each and every harvest season. I know I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be able to say that. An even bigger thank you goes to High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture for bringing this program to life and doing everything they can to support us out in the field. The gratitude we correspondents and harvest crews alike have for you is immeasurable. So again, thank you!

As for me, I have a holiday booked for a solid month and a half to head back to South Africa and then spend some time in Europe on the trip home. People always ask me how I can do such far and long trips and my response is always the same; you just gotta book it and go from there. Hopefully we will be finished with harvest by Christmas, right?

Till next harvest, have a great year and we look forward to sharing our stories with you next season!
Waiting on the headland.
Waiting on the headland in my beet truck. To the left is the pull tractor and to the right in the beet harvester.
Dad getting pulled out by the tank puller AND 4-wheel drive.
Dad getting pulled out by the tank puller AND 4-wheel drive.
Grandpa Hiladore running grain cart. Isn't he the cutest?!
Grandpa Hiladore running grain cart. Isn’t he the cutest?! Note the lunch box and thermos — can’t go anywhere without those!
Peter and I, ready to haul beets.
Peter and I, about to embark on a beet harvest shift.
A cute little barn by the river.
A cute little decrepit barn by the river, surrounded by perfect fall colors.
Osowski Ag bids farewell!
Osowski Ag bids farewell!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.
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