High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest

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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Back and Forth, Back and Forth
Z Crew

Matheson, Colorado –
It’s been over two weeks, already, that we left the San Luis Valley and back to the farm on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. The proso millet needed picked up and we went back to work the very next day. 

Proso millet is a small-seeded grass crop, much like wheat. Proso is most commonly used for bird seed but is also used for human consumption and livestock feed.

Proso millet has also been called common millet, hog millet, broom corn, yellow hog, hershey and white millet (Baltensperger, 1996). Proso millet is a warm-season grass capable of producing seed from 60 to 100 days after planting. Because of its relatively short growing season, it has a low moisture requirement and is capable of producing food or feed where other grain crops would fail.

In 2014, U.S. farmers produced 3.6 million bushels of proso millet. This was a large decrease from the 17.3 million bushels produced in 2007. The greatest production in 2014 was in Colorado, followed by Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and North Dakota (2012 USDA NASS Census of Agriculture). There is no USDA grain standard for test weight for proso millet, but a bushel weighs from 52 to 56 lbs.” Ag Marketing Resource Center

The days were short. We started later in the day than we did with wheat and because the sun is disappearing earlier, we quit earlier. The evenings are cool (almost cold) and it takes much longer for the mornings to warm up. We had several days, though, that felt like summer time all over again. I would so much rather have the heat of summer than the coolness that fall provides.
Proso millet laying in a swath. When the plant matures to a certain point, it is swathed (with a swather) and laid in rows to finish ripening. This is done to protect the tiny little grain from weather and the elements until it can be harvested.
The proso didn’t yield as much this year as it did last year. Last year we saw an average of 40 bpa…this year, 30 bushels to the acre. Most of the millet went into grain bins on the farm due to lack of space in the elevators. The last few days, we got to work with the farmer so it wasn’t nearly as boring as it was when it was just me and Jim. Back and forth, back and forth on those mile long strips tend to get pretty darn boring. My position on the seat was a much more relaxed one during proso millet than with the wheat or barley. With the pick up head, I have quite a bit of leeway and most of what I have to watch is directly in front of me.
We picked up our last swath for 2016 on Thursday afternoon (9/22). And…that’s that! We started the process of cleaning up equipment and getting things ready to head home, home. I always hate to see the end of harvest so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. I dislike the fact that once we get home, I have to watch the clock rather than the sun. The transition between the two worlds is much harder than you would ever believe.
My favorite time of the day – when the shadows are long and the countryside takes on different hues of colors – the golden hour.
There…between the box and the frame of Frank…it’s Pike’s Peak on the horizon.
The first morning with the rest of the crew.
Going back and forth, back and forth was much better while sharing the field with others!
Wes would have been so proud of his mom! Except, if he was still part of the crew, I doubt she would have been given much of a chance in the driver’s seat. This was Sarah’s first time in the combine and she did an aWESome job!!
The beginnings of wheat harvest 2016. It’s like when we leave home – corn is a small plant and beans are just being planted. When we get home, it will be time to harvest them. When we get back to this farm, it will be time to harvest the seeds that are going in the ground now.
The final night of leaving the Beast in the field to return in the morning for more harvest.
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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2016 Wrap Up
Emma Misener

Dell Rapids, SD — I cannot believe it is the middle of September already. Every year when the summer harvest wraps up and the fall season begins, I get the same feeling of disbelief. Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday we were fixing the big, green beasts and starting our first wheat field of the season. Now the harvest trail has led us to our next stop in South Dakota. Here we will inspect the machines we have in storage, fix what needs repaired (not much I presume), and wait the allotted time it takes for the fall crop to mature. My guess is that the soybeans for our farmer is about two-three weeks away. The corn will be ready after that. The crop maturity varies a lot this year it seems. Some is a maybe a week away, others at least three. Maybe it is due to the varieties planted or possibly if the rains this summer hit the field or not. Overall, it looks to be a good fall season.
That is just how farming goes. It is a gamble. I imagine it is very hard to see the time, money and effort into planting a crop be destroyed by the elements. I suppose that’s why being a farmer and having great faith go hand in hand. Just like any job really. No one likes to see their hard work destroyed or belittled. No matter what the lifestyle is, we all need God. He helps us through the ups and downs. I believe He never makes bad things happen or good things happen, He teaches us how to deal with or rejoice in those things that arise in our lives. He lets us know that He is here for the long haul and that we can depend on Him to get us through. This year has been stressful, just like any other year, but I am content because I know that He is here and He will help us through. All we can do is our best and He will do the rest. But doing our best can sometimes be the challenge. We are human, we make mistakes, but He knows that. We will continue to disappoint. In the end it only matters if we do our best.

Here are a few fun pictures!
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
‘A-board’ LOL
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Emma: 2016 AAWH
Thanks to our farmer Mike for pitching in and having fun with us spelling out All Aboard Wheat Harvest! It will be forever in my memories and it was laughable time!

I always try to say something profound, encouraging and motivating in my ending post of the season. I am always looking on the bright side of things. To my friends I am known as the eternal optimist. Haha! I am not sure about that, but the only thing I can think of at the moment and has never really escaped my mind this year is this:

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.”
-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

A final tip of the hat to all followers! I have had a great year and have enjoyed the stories you all have shared with me. Thank you for following along with Misener Family Harvesters and AAWH. I hope you have a prosperous and happy rest of the year and continue to be blessed in the future. Keep on keepin’ on. Never loose faith.

Be safe and God bless you and yours.
-Emma Misener

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. Emma can be reached at emma@allaboardharvest.com.
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So long, summer run…
Laura Haffner

Home: I can’t believe its time for me to write my closing post. I’m happy to report that all of our crew and equipment made it home last week safely from the summer run. They spent the remainder of the week completing preparations for corn harvest and jockeying equipment into position. We originally thought that we’d begin picking (almost said cutting—it’s time to switch the lingo) last week, however, the corn harvest season officially kicked off on Labor Day. Fall harvest for our crew consists of corn, soybeans, and grain sorghum (milo). We will remain in Kansas for these jobs.  

HPH-2016-Fall Havest (Charel)
Pieter and Stefan harvesting dry corn. (Photo Credit: Charel)

HPH-2016-Corn Harvest (Pieter)
The view from the combine cab has changed a little! (Photo Credit: Pieter)

HPH-2016-Corn Harvest (Pieter)
Corn harvest keeps the grain cart operators hopping! (Photo Credit: Pieter)

HPH-2016-Corn Harvest (Ryan)
A nice pano view sent in by Ryan.

I’ve pondered long and hard about what I would say to wrap this year up. However, you’ve spent the summer hearing my perspective of the rains in Texas, phenomenal yields and great cutting weather of western Kansas and eastern Colorado, and the ups and downs of waiting for the right cutting conditions in Montana and North Dakota. I thought instead of rehashing the same memories, maybe you would enjoy hearing thoughts from some of our crew members. 

What job do you like the most and least while working on the crew?
Willem: Obviously driving the combine and my least favorite is cleaning the camper.
Charel: I enjoyed driving grain cart because it kept me busy all the time. I like to be moving all the time. My least favorite is to fix the stuff that broke down.
Albert: My most favorite is probably being out in the field in the combine. My least favorite is breakdown of equipment.
Shaun: The thing I most liked was when everyone knew what they were doing and seeing the crop getting off the field. The weather isn’t always cooperative. That’s hard.
Pieter: The job I like the most is running combine. I guess the job I like the least is servicing combines.
Henry: I like getting to see new places, combining, grain carting, all of it. Blowing combines off in the morning instead of the evening is my least favorite.

It is being said that wheat harvest in western Kansas was a once in a lifetime harvest. What was it like to be a part of harvesting a historical crop?
Willem: It was a good thing! It was good to see the good attitudes of farmers during harvest.
Charel: It was good to be part of it. To see the smile on the farmers’ faces was good. It made me enjoy it like they (the farmer) do and be able to cut a good yielding crop.
Albert: It was great to see the smile on all the farmers faces and to see the achievement they reached. One particular older farmer told me that in all his years of experience he’d never seen anything like it. To see his facial expression and gratitude was great.
Pieter: It was special. It was great to know the farmers made really good yields. I was amazed by the crops from this year to last year and it was an honor to be here again.
Henry: It actually felt pretty amazing to be a part of a historical harvest.

What was your favorite harvest stop and why?
Willem: Scott City was the most beautiful place we visited. It is similar to where we live in South Africa. It felt like home, but better! The wheat and good yields and pivots with maize were beautiful. I wish I could have a set up like that at home one day. I celebrated my birthday there too so it felt even more like home. I also enjoyed Texas and North Dakota.
Charel: I guess it was Hoxie. The wheat was really good and it was nice to be in such good wheat.
Albert: It’s hard to compare them. All of them are fun. Scott City was great because of the wheat and weather was cooperating perfectly.
Shaun: I enjoyed cutting for the people in Flemming. They really appreciated the harvesters. They did a lot of extras this year.
Pieter: Garrison and Sharon Springs. In Garrison, I enjoyed the people and the scenery. It was a really beautiful place. It was really amazing cutting the yields in Sharon Springs.
Henry: The place I liked the most was passing through northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota. The winding roads, different types of scenery and hills. I just liked the scenery.

What is a favorite memory from the harvest experience?
Willem: The best memory was cutting the last field with my brother (Pieter). It had been our dream since young boys to harvest together and it was a pivotal point when we completed the last field together and realized we made our dream happen. That photo will be in my office some day (the photo he is referencing was in the last AAWH article).
Charel: I met good friends and good people on the road. It was nice to be in Montana and see the country. It was beautiful.
Albert: Going to Glacier National Park was a memorable experience. Seeing all the beautiful nature was a highlight of my year so far.
Shaun: Glacier National Park. That was something I haven’t seen in my life so that was the biggest moment for me.
Pieter: The first time I cut with my brother (Willem). That was really special to me.
Henry: Getting everything ready for harvest and moving down to Texas. The anticipation for the season was fun.

With all the ups and downs that happen on harvest, was it worth it?
Willem: Definitely. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do such long hours. It taught me what I’m able to do and I learned more of who I am. I also learned a lot from Ryan about how a young guy got started and how he runs his business. I can use that information when I go home to my own thing.
Charel: Totally. I learned a lot. I had more good times than bad times. It was nice to see this side of the world and how you do it and be a part of a harvesting crew in the States.
Albert: Yes, definitely. Most definitely.
Shaun: Definitely. Every harvest has ups and downs.
Pieter: Ahhhh, yes. For sure. Every day is a different day. You never know what you’re going to get. It’s just part of the job. It’s amazing.
Henry: Yeah, it was worth it. We saw hard days and worked through them and got to the end. We saw a whole lot of good days.  

I appreciate our crew sharing their thoughts.  They spent many long hours working hard on the harvest trail   I hope you enjoyed a bit of a different spin as we close down the wheat harvest season.

Of course, we have a list of people to thank before we say our final goodbye!  Thank you to our customers for trusting HPH for your summer harvesting needs.  We appreciate the opportunity to serve you.  Without you, we would not be here.  

Thanks also to the people along the trail who keep us up and running and able to serve our customers.  Thanks to our neighbors who help around our farm and home giving us a peace of mind while we’re away.  Thanks to our family and friends who are understanding of our crazy schedule! 

Thank you to High Plains Journal for allowing our crew and I to be a part of the All Aboard Wheat Harvest lineup. It has truly been a privilege to be a correspondent for a second year and an opportunity I don’t take lightly. Thank you also to our sponsors: New Holland, ITC, Unverferth, WestBred and Kuhn Krause. Your support for this project does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.  Thank you also to the readers. Without you and your continued interest, encouragement, questions, and comments, there would be no need for a project like this. It has been a joy to share our harvest story with you and interact with those of you who reach out each year.  

If you haven’t had enough harvest yet, feel free to look us up on our Facebook page for photos and updates from the fall run. And for those of you who are already dreaming of the start of the next wheat harvest, don’t fear, we’re only approximately 288 days away until Wheat Harvest 2017 begins! 

We hope you have a safe and happy fall wherever you reside!  Until another time…

Harvest Final
Just one more photo from Wheat Harvest 2016! (Photo Credit: Laura)

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Laura at laura@allaboardharvest.com.
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From the Field to the Fridge
Z Crew

Monte Vista, Colorado –
Mention Coors Light or Miller Lite and I would be willing to bet most readers of this blog will immediately think of this:
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!

Rather than this:

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
(Photo credit goes to Linda Lutz)
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!

We came to the San Luis Valley in Colorado to cut malt barley for farmers who had contracted with MillerCoors. We once cut a small patch of barley in Montana but I’m fairly certain it was used for feed, not for brewing purposes. So, I was excited to see what this was all about. We’ve had harvester friends talk about the Valley for quite a few years and I’ve always wondered what it would be like.

Once here, I found the Valley to be so interesting and each time we passed the MillerCoors Barley Elevator, I knew a story was waiting to be told. 

I had the opportunity to meet Kim Hayden (Regional Manager) one day when Casey and I went inside the office to get a sample tested for moisture. I was determined to find out if I could tell the story – the story of field to product – so, I asked. She said she would have to get in touch with someone at the headquarters in Chicago, IL first and would let me know. The next thing I know, I’m receiving a phone call from Jonathan Stern (Director of Media/Investor Relations) and a time is set up for a conference call for the three of us. I told them I wasn’t a real journalist but I write a blog and I wanted to share with the general public what it takes to get the barley from the field to the brewery.

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
Thank you, Kim, for allowing me to take your picture and for all of your help with this story!

This is the story as told by the harvester, who sat in the cab of the combine, who cut the barley, that was dumped in a truck, that was driven to the elevator, that was dumped in the pit, that ultimately became a can of Coors Light or Miller Lite beer.

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
Bumper sticker on the back of a local truck that was in front of us while in line at the MillerCoors Facility.

The Company and the Farmer
MillerCoors contracts with 151 farmers in the Valley to grow 45,000 acres of barley which will be used exclusively for the MillerCoors products. Every one of these acres are grown under an irrigation pivot which supplies the life-giving water from ancient, underground aquifers. The aquifers are replenished by the snowpack in the surrounding mountains. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, the Valley (the largest and highest commercial agricultural valley in the world) is a high altitude desert (7,500 feet or more) and receives an annual rainfall of less than 7”. Shoot…we sometimes get that much rain in one storm in eastern Nebraska. It’s the warm, sunny days and cool nights which provide the perfect growing conditions for the barley in this area.

Most of the custom harvesters who are in the area have been here for years, some are multi-generational – just as the farmers who grow for MillerCoors. According to Kim, they have been contracting directly with the same local barley growers for almost 70 years. They consider their growers family and have been working with two or three generations of the same family.

MillerCoors also contracts 8,000-10,000 acres of barley with 50 growers in northern Colorado – Longmont and Ft. Collins. They also have facilities in Idaho, Montana (Billings and Power) and Wyoming (Worlund).

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
Photo taken by Dusty “Crophopper” Claunch of the MillerCoors Elevator in Monte Vista, Colorado during the 2015 barley harvest.

Harvest and Tests
Barley harvest begins in August and will continue into September. MillerCoors has very strict tests that every truckload of barley will have to pass in order to be used for their product.

When the truckloads of barley leave the field and make their way to the elevator, the wait between entering the yard and actually sitting on the scale can sometimes be quite long. According to harvesters who have been coming here for quite some time, the wait time has been greatly reduced from what it used to be. However, the line can still be several hours to most of the day, depending on the number of trucks making their way to the facility. The elevator closes the gates at 5:00pm…period.

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
Arriving at the MillerCoors Facility in Monte Vista.

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
The line was reasonably short for our last trip but we still waited over an hour before reaching the scale.

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!

When the truck arrives at the scale, a probe is used to obtain a sample of the grain. They will test moisture, protein, plumpness of the barley and physical analysis. Physical analysis includes diseased and damaged kernels, chemical damage, insect damage, mold or fungus, skin and “brokens” (primarily due to combine) and foreign materials (wheat, rocks, beards). They want to guarantee they are purchasing high quality barley.

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
A portion of the sample received from each truckload of the grower’s barley is used to create two different types of composites – the Grower Composite and the Daily Composite.

Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
Shawna Jones (Procurement Coordinator) collects the sample and performs the required quality tests for each truckload entering the facility.

The samples are kept in clear plastic bags identified by the grower’s name. At the end of harvest, a Grower Composite includes every sample saved from each grower’s truckload that entered the facility. This also provides the facility with a form of traceability in case a problem shows up later.

A Daily Composite is created by keeping a portion of each grower’s sample brought to the facility each day. At the end of the day, all samples are combined together and a daily analysis is run. This analysis can be provided to MillerCoors’ malting and brewing customers. Through these daily composites, they can let their customers know the quality of the barley and how the harvest is progressing.

The barley is stored and conditioned by running air through the grain pile to bring the temperature down to 40 degrees to eliminate bug issues and can be stored for up to a year. The ultimate goal for the elevator in Monte Vista is to purchase a high quality product and take care of it until it’s needed for the next step – malting. The elevator will ship throughout the year to the MillerCoors facility in Golden, Colorado for the malting process.

Headed to the Malt House
100% of the barley contracted in the San Luis Valley will go to the MillerCoors brewery in Golden, Colorado. Once it arrives in Golden, it is stored in silos to be cleaned and prepared for the malting process. The brewery owns their own malt house.

The malting process is basically tricking the barley into growing or beginning the chemical process of breaking down complex starches into simple sugars without growing a plant. So, in other words, to trick the grain to start growing…but not really. Yeah, I didn’t quite understand that either until Kim explained it to me in more detail.

There are three phases in malting – steeping, germination and kilning.

  • Steeping – The barley is soaked in big tanks filled with water to encourage it to grow before the water is drained. The moisture is allowed to go from 12% to 45%.
  • Germination – The wetted grain is allowed to grow under controlled conditions. This is where the complex starches break down into simple sugars without growing a plant. You want simple sugars so the yeast can consume the sugars to produce the alcohol for the beer.
  • Kilning – Before sprouting goes too far, the barley is toasted with warm air in a kiln. The kiln can be used for more than simply stopping growth. Time in the kiln controls color, from pale gold to rich chocolate. It also controls flavor, creating beer that’s sweet and mellow or dark and bitter.

After the kilning takes place, the malted barley is stored until it is ground into malt flour, called “grist.” Milling cracks the tough outer hull of the grain so water can get in and dissolve the starch and sugars inside.

What’s Next?
I found the remaining steps directly from the MillerCoors website (their website is beautiful, by the way):

Mashing – Mashing is the final process of converting any remaining starch into fermentable sugar. Hot water is added to the grist to produce a mixture called “mash.” The combination of heat and natural enzymes from the barley breaks down the starches into fermentable sugars. This process takes place in large kettles called mash tuns. When the sugar content is just right, the mash is filtered to separate the solid husks and germ of the grain from the sweet liquid. The solids, which make nutritious, high-protein animal feed, are sold to local farmers. The sweet liquid, called “wort,” is transferred to another kettle. The wort is heated to a boil to clarify it and reduce excess water. Hops are added at this stage for their aroma and spiciness, and to balance the sweetness. After boiling, the wort is strained, cooled and transferred to a fermentation tank.

Fermenting and Aging – When the wort cools, yeast is added, and fermentation begins. It takes a while for the yeast to multiply, but once there’s enough, it consumes the sugars and produces alcohol and CO2 (carbonation). The fermentation tank is constantly kept at cool temperatures for the yeast to do the best job. Fermenting typically takes eight to 10 days. After fermentation, the filtered, fermented wort is officially beer. But at this stage the young beer needs to mature. For most beers (and all lagers), the next step is aging and secondary fermentation in large tanks. A term for this stage is “lagering,” German for “storing.” During the aging process, the beer matures, develops its natural carbonation and its unique flavor. Ale yeast likes warmer temperatures than lager yeast. So the ales ferment and go through their aging at less icy temperatures than their lager counterparts. It’s why lagers and ales taste different. When aging is complete and the flavors found in the beers are in perfect harmony, it’s time for their ultimate destination.

We all know this fun fact about wheat – A bushel of wheat yields 42 one-and-a-half pound commercial loaves of white bread OR about 90 one-pound loaves of whole wheat bread. So, I thought it would be fun to know fun facts about barley and something to think about the next time you open a beer.

What Goes Into My Beer?
On average, a single 12 oz. serving requires:

 72 oz. water
 0.0700 lb. malted barley
 0.0260 lb. unmalted rice or corn
 0.0003 lb. hops
One bushel of barley produces approximately 565 12 oz. beers.
Our truck averaged 1,000 bushels of barley OR 565,000 12 oz. beers.
Now, let’s go a little bit further…
 45,000 acres of San Luis Valley barley x 150 bushels per acre =
6,750,000 bushels of barley
 6,750,000 bushels x 565 = 3,813,750,000 12 oz. beers

Thank you, Jonathan and Kim, for providing me with the details I needed to tell the story. I will forever think about what it takes to produce a bottle of beer – from the field to the fridge!

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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Field Swamps 101
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – I kid you not, there are fields with ruts from one end to the other.  No matter where the combine drove, it left a rut-shaped tattoo. That is what 95 percent of the fields look like in Walsh County, North Dakota. Since we got our tracks put on last week, dad’s phone has been ringing off the hook with more wheat to cut and it’s been the best kind of scramble. 40 acres here and 60 acres there and maybe a quarter somewhere in there each day, all for different farmers in the area. The thing about tracks is that when roading the combine from place to place, the header must always be removed and thrown on the trailer. Also, the tracks only allow for a whopping speed of 15 mph even in the highest gear the combine has to offer. Good thing we have lots of practice loading combines on trailers!

If you’re driving a combine, you need to be extra careful where you go in order to stay on solid ground. If you’re driving grain cart, you need to make sure to unload the combine extra often to keep it as empty as possible. There is also a good chance you’ll be taking the long way to the trucks to steer clear of the ruts and getting stuck yourself. If you’re driving truck, you may need to park on the road in order to not get caught full in the field with no way to move. The wheat is of good quality so it’s well worth the hectic harvest. The protein is between 13 and 14 in content and test weights are in the 60s.

I feel like a bit of a broken record lately with my posts but we seem to be stuck in a weather pattern that is determined to complicate harvest as much as possible. This past weekend, it began raining around 11p.m. and continued to be rainy and cloudy until Tuesday morning. And, low and behold, there is rain in the forecast for Wednesday afternoon and on to the end of the week. Looks like the crops will get to have another swimming lesson before harvest will begin again.
Introducing the tracks.
Introducing… the tracks.
Making dust amongst the water.
Making dust amongst the water.
Grain cart action.
Grain cart action.
Ruts on ruts.
A field of ruts.
A wheat field or a puddle?
A wheat field or a wheat puddle?
It's unbelievable how much these tracks can go through.
It’s unbelievable how much these tracks can go through.
Dad and Farmer Lloyd, surveying the mess of a field.
Dad and Farmer Lloyd, surveying the mess of a field.
Side view.
Side view.
Farmer Lloyd yells at me "your camera is going to break" as he smiles for the camera. :)
Farmer Lloyd yells at me “your camera is going to break” as he cracks a smiles. 🙂
Peeking through.
Peeking through.
Crusing around the corner.
Cruising around the corner.

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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Taters and Carrots…a Harvest of a Different Color
Z Crew

San Luis Valley, Colorado
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before…the San Luis Valley is an amazing place to see all sorts of different crops being grown and harvested. Maybe it’s just interesting to me because the crops I’m most used to seeing consists of soybeans, corn and wheat. Maybe it just seems so much more magical because of the mountains that surround the valley. Whatever it is…I’m in love with this valley!

I’m not sure what day it was or what we were doing (and it doesn’t matter) when we came upon the carrot harvester. At first, we passed right by it because I’m sure we were on a mission to get something – like a header trailer. I attempted to take a couple of pictures on the move when Jim said, “Would you like to stop and watch this for a minute”? Why, yes I would.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvester's do.
Unfortunately, this is not a very clear picture and I considered not even using it but thought even a blurry picture of something you don’t see everyday is better than none at all.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvester's do.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvester's do.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvester's do.
So I had lots of questions about the San Luis Valley carrot harvest. The person I decided to start asking those questions to was the farmer we were cutting malt barley for, Cory Myers of M&G Farms. I asked him what would happen with the carrots we saw being harvested. This is what I found out and felt it may be interesting to those of you who only know that carrots are bagged and can purchased at the grocery store.

There are 1,200 acres of carrots grown in the Valley for Grimmway Farms. Grimmway’s main farm and headquarters is in California. The farmers who grow carrots for Grimmway are contracted to only grow the carrots. Grimmway provides the equipment necessary to harvest the crop and move the product to where it needs to go.

The harvesting machine loosens the sandy ground as a rolling mechanism (much like a corn head) gently pulls the carrots out of the ground. There are knives that cut the tops off the carrot while they are in motion inside the machine. The tops go out the back of the machine while the carrots travel on a conveyor belt and are dumped into the truck. The carrots will be cut into 2″ pieces and turned into “baby carrots.” To learn more about this process, click here to be directed to Grimmway’s website. There is a very interesting video explaining the harvest and the process of what takes place after the carrots are dug. 

Cory told me any tops that didn’t get cut on the harvester and any other carrot waste is taken to a local buffalo ranch or used for livestock feed. He said when the harvest is in full swing, there will be 25 reefer (refrigerated shipping container) loads of carrots harvested per day.

So, how many of you thought baby carrots were grown as baby carrots? Now you know.

I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t want to stop and grab a couple of those carrots that fell from the truck!

The potato harvest hasn’t started yet. They’re right on the verge of getting started. It’s much like the beginning of wheat harvest – anticipation, excitement and just plain ready to get started is happening right now. There are a few farmers attempting but conditions must not be quite ready. I was told the majority of the potato harvest will begin about the 15th of September. Cory and his family grow potatoes and have one of the largest potato harvesters in the Valley. This particular harvester weighs 110,000 pounds stripped of all dirt and potatoes. It has a 300 gallon fuel tank and will burn 270 gallons of diesel in a 10 hour day. It separates 2″ and larger spuds from the smaller ones. The smaller ones will be used as seed or discarded because there isn’t a market for the smaller potatoes. The dimensions of the harvester is 43′ long, 26.5′ wide and 18′ tall. It will cover 35 acres per day. When harvest begins for a farmer, he will have hired at least 50 employees or more. Not only will he need people for the harvester, he will also need many drivers for the potato trucks. 

The San Luis Valley grows 48,000-52,000 acres of potatoes and is the second largest fresh potato growing region in the U.S. 95% of these potatoes are for the fresh market with primary sales being to the southeast region of the United States. To learn more about the San Luis Valley potatoes, click here. Once there, be sure to watch the video that explains more about the San Luis Valley and the farmers that are in this area! 

The following video is one that Cory shared with me. This is their harvester in action:
After Cory explained the harvest and all the steps involved, he got in his pickup and left. I assumed he was going back to his farm for the day. About 1/2 hour later, he returned to the field with a canvas bag. He called me over to the endgate of his pickup as he began dumping the contents of the bag. This is what he brought back to show me:
Z Crew: Because it's what harvester's do.
These beautiful purple and yellow potatoes are a new variety developed right here in the San Luis Valley by a local breeder working at the CSU Research Center. The name of these potatoes are “Masquerade.” Cory is the only one in the U.S. who is commercially growing this variety of potato – he planted just a little more than 11 acres this year. Last year, his crop of Masquerade potatoes made their way to eastern Canada.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvester's do.
Cory said these potatoes are called Mesa are the best tasting potato on the planet! There are over 70 varieties of potatoes grown in the San Luis Valley. I had no idea there were so many different kinds. Silly me…I thought russet and red potatoes were the only kinds out there. How about you? Did you know there were so many different varieties of spuds??
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
These are the newer, updated buildings used to store the spuds. The old buildings scattered through the countryside look like Midwest dugouts. They’re above ground but made from adobe with sod roofs.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!

I’ve enjoyed seeing so many new and different aspects of agriculture while here in the San Luis Valley! I hope my pictures and stories have spurred a little bit of interest in this unique and beautiful part of Colorado!

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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