High Plains Harvesting Headquarters – We are just days away from 2016 cutting season! It is hard to believe that it is already here since we just stopped harvesting fall crops in December!
Some of the equipment has already made the long trek from our country headquarters in Park, Kansas, to Burkburnett, Texas, the area our harvest adventure will begin this year. The crew plans to cut wheat along a run from Texas to Montana and North Dakota. We run John Deere S670 combines, 8R John Deere tractors, Brent grain carts with scales, semi trucks and hopper bottom grain trailers. The combines are equipped with auto steer and have mapping capabilities. We run Shelbourne stripper headers as well as John Deere draper headers.
The first load of equipment on its way to Texas.
We are beginning our fifth season as owners of High Plains Harvesting. I will never forget the day when Ryan called to tell me the family he had helped harvest for years had decided to hang up their full time harvest hats. I can tell you exactly where I was sitting in my classroom where moments before I had been calmly snarfing my lunch (you teachers in the audience know there is no such thing as a long, peaceful lunch!). I soon wasn’t quite as hungry as I had been, since I now had plenty of emotion to fill my belly with the knowledge that things may never be the same again. You see, Ryan had dreamed of owning a harvest crew one day and it appeared that this just might be his chance. Ryan soon went to work promoting his business plan and his hard work paid off. Three days after school got out, I found myself in a straight truck hauling grain in southern Oklahoma as harvest was so early that year, not all of our crew had arrived. That was five years ago. A lot has changed in that time and sometimes I feel that we’ve lived a lifetime since then.
Mark, our foreman, worked for the previous family and agreed to transfer to us when we purchased the business. He has nearly 20 years of harvest experience and has been a very important part of the day to day operations at HPH. When we started the business, Ryan and I maintained our professions and were not always “on the ground” so to speak, for day to day operations. Of course, when he was needed, Ryan took vacation time and weekends to be with the crew, but in those first years that was the arrangement; Mark on the trail and Ryan primarily dealt with the business side of things.
Mark, Pieter G., Albert, Willem, and Annie Dog (taking advantage of the moment to sneak a treat!) on their way home from delivering the first load of equipment to Teaxs this spring.
Today things look a bit different. As one might expect, the business has evolved. Last year, we had the opportunity to expand and as a result, was the first year that Ryan joined the harvest trail full-time since his college years. It was also the first year I joined the crew on the road full-time and became apart of the All Aboard Wheat Harvest blog family. I would be fibbing if I said that the harvest life was something I always dreamed of. Honestly, it just wasn’t something I had thought about despite the fact I grew up surrounded by agriculture in a rural setting that was my home and had an agronomist father. In college I even received a minor in agronomy (major in education), but harvesting just wasn’t a sector of agriculture I was as deeply familiar with except on general terms. So, in all honesty, the life as a business owner in the harvest world has been a HUGE adjustment for me and a time of constant stretching and personal growth. It is from this perspective I share our harvest adventures with you.
Our first season on the road as a family may have had a learning curve, but moments like these solidified it was the right decision.
The harvest business, for better or worse, never seems to be static. Our goal at High Plains Harvesting is to not stay the same either. We are always trying to improve and learn from our mistakes and our successes; and we have had plenty of those in the last years. The agriculture economy has seen better times, so constant, fluid planning is extra crucial this year. Grain prices are low, and other aspects of the ag world haven’t caught up as quickly to this down turn. We have a small grain farm and ranch so are feeling this first hand. One the harvest side, equipment remains high so being creative and diligent in this area is something Ryan worked hard on this winter (and it frequented our conversations multiple times a day!).
Cutting in Morgan County, Colorado, last season.
Relationships and people are extremely important in the harvest business. The reason we work hard behind the scenes is so we can provide a certain level of service to our customers. Without them, we would not be here. Each operation is unique and no two stops are the same which keeps things interesting and challenging. We look forward to seeing and working with our customers this year.
Without our crew, we would not be able to serve our customers. We have several returning members this year. I already discussed Mark and his value to the crew above. Kirby, a retired business owner, decided to turn a year of harvest adventures into two! He quickly became a valuable addition to the crew with his positive attitude, work ethic and ability to fix about anything. His wife, Dot, joins him on the road from time to time and she occasionally contributed photos to this blog.
Dot and Kirby.
Albert is another returner, and stepped up to the plate last year and took some responsibilities head on. This year he is joined by friends, Shaun and Charel. Pieter G. is also returning for his second year with us and his constant, radiating positive attitude is a bright spot on the crew! He is joined this year by his brother and cousin, Willem and Henry. Harold, as the crew affectionately named Opa, is currently trucking. We also have four other new members: Shane, Paul, and Kyle. We look forward to getting to know the new members as the season progresses.
2016 Seasonal Crew Members as of May 15. Back row: Paul and Charel. Front Row: Willem, Albert, Henry, Shaun, Pieter G., Shane, and Kyle.
Perhaps our biggest change in the crew lineup was the addition of our newest little harvester! As you may recall, we had opted to wait to learn the gender of the baby until “d-day.” Drum roll please….the baby is a girl! I just knew I was destined to be a mom of boys since I’m surrounded by so many with our crew. However, God had other plans! Lady A was gracious enough to make her debut on a weekend where we had some rain so thankfully Ryan was nearby and was able to drive us to the hospital. Little Man was excited to become a brother and is a big helper in our family. He cannot wait to start harvesting and has been “practicing” on the carpet with his own crew for months now.
A family picture with the new addition.
Creativity. At least the length is legal…
Scouting for rust and growth stage! It’s never too early to train the next generation!
We aren’t the only ones with news to report. You may remember Mark’s friend, Jill, who occasionally sent in photo updates last summer when she visited the crew. Well, Mark popped the question in a big way with help from the crew. With a message cut in the wheat courtesy of the guys, Mark asked Jill to marry him last year in Montana. She said yes, and the couple has planned a November wedding so the crew will still be present to attend!
Best wishes, Mark and Jill!
Apart from the givens of faith, family, and friends, the subjects of agriculture, writing and photographing earth’s beauty are some of my life passions. As society becomes more and more removed from the farm and agriculture, I believe it is crucial that those of us in agriculture share our stories with those around us! We are currently in an environment where others are more than happy to share stories of agriculture for us that are half truths or all out lies to promote personal agendas. Let’s be a positive force of truth, hold our heads up high in the face of adversity and take pride that we help feed the world! I appreciate High Plains Journal and the All Aboard Wheat Harvest sponsors for giving us a platform to share our harvest story!
I look forward to sharing and hearing from you in 2016!
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal
and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org