High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


Laura Haffner

laura

Laura Haffner began as an All Aboard Wheat Harvest correspondent in 2015. Laura and her husband, Ryan, are the owners of High Plains Harvesting, a full-service custom grain harvesting business based in western Kansas.  

Laura: Week In Review
Laura Haffner

Montana/North Dakota: The crew in Montana finally got about a five day window to cut. That was just enough time for them to finish the winter wheat harvest. The next plan is to move on to the spring wheat. However, the moisture level is hovering around 22.5 percent, so that is still several days off.

High Plains Harvesting 2017 (Mark)
Unloading on the go in the wide open spaces of northern Montana. (Photo Credit: Mark) 
High Plains Harvesting 2017 (Mark)
Another shot from the crew in Montana. (Photo Credit: Mark)
High Plains Harvesting 2017 (James)
The sun setting on Montana’s winter wheat harvest. (Photo Credit: James)
Meanwhile, the crew with Ryan in North Dakota continues to fight moisture, hence why news has been so limited. They recently finished field peas. I’ve had some questions regarding their edibility. I learned the answer is, “Yes!” The yellow peas are for foreign food aide. Green peas are sold to India for human food consumption. The peas made around 15-25 bushels per acre.

After finishing the field peas, they moved on to Durham wheat. This kind of wheat is used to make pasta and has a higher protein content. It’s important to get it out as quickly as possible. Each rain can change the color of the grain which then effects the grade. It starts out a bright, golden color and dulls with each rain. We are gradually making progress harvesting the Durham, but have struggled to really get rolling strong. The crew has seen a fair share of late starts, lots of moisture testing, and days we just haven’t been able to cut at all. They’ve been fighting the showers, humidity and sometimes cold, cloudy weather. They keep getting 0.3 inches of rain then, 0.8″, .15″, etc. Whenever they can go, they go hard. Tonight (Monday) there’s a 90% chance of raining so they’re going as long, and hard as they can. They’ve been dry in North Dakota, so despite the showers, the ground is still holding up well. The highest Durham yields so far have been around 45 bushels per acre. 

High Plains Harvesting 2017 (Ryan)
Field peas that the crew in North Dakota were harvesting. (Photo Credit: Ryan)
High Plains Harvesting 2017 (RYAN)
Combines in the distance. (Photo Credit: Ryan)
High Plains Harvesting 2017 (Ryan)
Waiting to take the next load to the bin. (Photo Credit: Ryan)
High Plains Harvesting 2017 (Pieter)
That’s a beautiful field of wheat! (Submitted by: Pieter)
High Plains Harvesting 2017 (Ryan)
It stays light pretty late in the north country! (Photo credit: Ryan)
High Plains Harvesting 2017 (Ryan)
Trying to beat the rain on Monday night. (Photo Credit: Ryan)
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: Waiting
Laura Haffner

Montana – There hasn’t been much to report the last several days. It seems that as quickly as the crew in Montana started their northern most stop of the year, they had to shut down due to green crops. Mark reported they were seeing yields in the 40 bushels per acre range during the short time they were rolling. Some of the crew members decided to visit Glacier National Park during their downtime. This has traditionally been a crowd favorite.

The crew in North Dakota has been also down for a few days, but were able to restart harvesting chickpeas last night. However, rains have them shut down again. They need the rain so one hates to wish it away! We are thankful to have crops to harvest when the time comes, so wait we will! 

Mark contributed the photos below from their current job in Montana.

High Plains Harvesting - Mark 2017
Photo by Mark of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvesting - Mark 2017
Photo by Mark of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvesting - Mark 2017
Photo by Mark of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvesting - Mark 2017
Photo by Mark of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvesting - Mark 2017
Photo by Mark of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvesting - Mark 2017
Photo by Mark of High Plains Harvesting.


The pictures below were contributed by Jill.

High Plains Harvest -Jill(2017)
Photo by Jill of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvest -Jill(2017)
Photo by Jill of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvest -Jill(2017)
Photo by Jill of High Plains Harvesting.


High Plains Harvest -Jill(2017)
Photo by Jill of High Plains Harvesting.


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

2 Responses to Laura: Waiting
Laura Haffner

  1. Your photos and stories make me wish I was younger and could join a crew. My soon worked on a crew out of Kansas several years ago and came home with amazing photos and tales. Thanks for taking time to share your experiences.

    • There’s guys/gals of all ages working on crews, Dale! Maybe you can still live out your dream!

      I’m so glad you are enjoying the posts.

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Laura: Harvest in North Dakota? Yes, peas!
Laura Haffner

North Central, North Dakota – We’ve been a little light on the news lately, but no news is sometimes just no news. The last several days have been consumed with making the big moves to North Dakota, and the crew in Montana moved just shy of the Canadian border. It takes a lot of effort to make those moves from arranging all the travel permits to the actual miles and trips it takes to get there. 

We are thankful to be cutting here in North Dakota as they’ve been very dry this season. Our farmer is currently having us cut peas. The process is similar to harvesting soybeans. We switched out concaves and are using flex draper headers. They have recently caught some much needed rain.  The guys hope to be back in the field in the next couple days.

I wish I could take credit for the clever title, but it was all Ryan!  He also contributed the moose photos below. I was on the phone with him the other night when he popped over the hill and saw this moose. It was fun to witness with him, even though I wasn’t in the truck too. It’s not something a Kansan sees everyday! Continue Reading

2 Responses to Laura: Harvest in North Dakota? Yes, peas!
Laura Haffner

    • The peas are for human consumption. Some of the peas we’re cutting are actually shipped to India or used for foreign food aide.

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Laura: Rattle in the night
Laura Haffner

Northeast Colorado – The other night Pieter had machinery issues so stopped in the field, got out of the cab, and hopped off the ladder. Immediately he knew something was wrong. Ryan said he was yelling over the noise of the combine about there being a snake. Ryan thought he was just imagining things as it would be hard to hear a rattle over the roar of the motor. Pieter kept yelling and pointing. When Ryan shined his light in the direction Pieter was pointing, sure enough, there was a rattle snake coiled up and ready to strike. Continue Reading

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Laura: Fire danger
Laura Haffner

Hardin, Montana – Things can get pretty dry in Montana in the summer. That doesn’t sound like that unusual because a lot of places get dry. However, it takes on a different meaning when you’re dealing with some of the desolate areas that make up the state. There aren’t always the square north/south or east/west roads every mile or so like you find in some parts of the plains. If lightning strikes, and a fire starts, it’s not always very easy to fight because of the very remote, and often rough terrain. Same can be true for a fire started by harvest equipment. The fields in the part of the world can be very large, I’m talking 1000+ acres. If a fire starts and blows through a field, the consequences can be devastating and extremely difficult to fight. Crews are often driven from the field for rain, but at this stop, the crews have been asked to shut down when the fire risk seems especially high, which is completely understandable.  There are disastrous fires currently burning in the state. Continue Reading

2 Responses to Laura: Fire danger
Laura Haffner

  1. Your pictures are unreal wow I love that part of the world. Big Bud flew me to their plant in Havar Mont an we went out to look at their tractors plowing. For a Texan farmer this was BIG country an then to see your combines harvesting their wheat what a story.

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Laura: Montana
Laura Haffner

Hardin, Montana – For those of you who have been waiting for the Montana pictures, well, you’re in luck. They’re starting to trickle in. Montana usually seems to be a highlight for the crew and readers probably because it so unique environmentally. They don’t call it “Big Sky Country” for nothing! The report from Mark and the crew up in Montana is that they’re cutting in absolutely beautiful country. They’ve seen lots of deer and other various forms of wildlife. The harvest has been respectable too. At the first farm, they’ve seen yields mainly in the 40-60 range with spikes all the way up to 100 bushels per acre. Below are some photos they’ve sent in. Continue Reading

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Laura: The middle of somewhere
Laura Haffner

Eastern Colorado – Due to a lack of urban centers, I’m guessing a lot of people would deem where we’re currently cutting the middle of nowhere. It is true we are miles and miles from the nearest village or town, but despite all that, “I” would say we’re in the middle of somewhere. That somewhere is beautiful. Brave little houses and farmsteads dot the landscape — those few still willing to take on the unpredictable windswept prairie. Signs of days gone by are here too. I see the abandoned one-room school house and the occasional forgotten skeleton of a house that was once a happy home. Who were these people that once inhabited these spots, and what became of them? Song birds flutter on the breeze. The swish-swish of wheat and grass can be heard, and in the words of Louis Lamar, “The wind, always the wind.” Cattle peacefully chew the grass. And the view… one can see for miles. 

It’s out here that there are few distractions. One can think out here, breathe out here, and just be. Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky that I am to see these places that most rarely, if ever do. I have to think that a lot of the world’s problems could be overcome if we just took a little R&R on the prairie to clear the air in our souls and minds.  Continue Reading

22 Responses to Laura: The middle of somewhere
Laura Haffner

  1. What an awesome description! I love the old schoolhouse in the wheat field, makes me think of my Grandma Fauley and her teaching days! Harvest always brings back memories of long forgotten days of cutting wheat with my grandparents, Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Hed! Thanks for the reminders, 💙🌾🌻💚

  2. This was so good Laura! I’m going to send it to Charlie because he talks about being able to just breathe and refocus on what’s important in life when he comes across these places to. You described it so well! And the pictures are fantastic!

  3. Laura: Loved your well written story. I could identify with this story as I have, a long time ago, helped in the harvest by driving the tractor that was pulling the combine. We had to get out of the field so we did not get stuck when a rain story came after watching it come from a ways away. Our small crew had some of those picnics and they were the best. My favorite part of this story is reference to the quiet, forever view and I love to go back to the western Kansas area because its beautiful, vast and a place where your mind can be refreshed. Yes it somewhere, its in God’s special country.

    • Betty, its so neat to hear that you can relate and have first hand experience with the picnics. Thanks for sharing your story with me! 🙂

  4. You’ve got those storm pic’s dialed in Laura !! Sure lucky that the storm didn’t have some hail in it.Here in the Cochrane AB. area that type of temp swing would be the Great White Combine,summer version.Here in Alberta ,we also have the fall version Snow !! I sure miss the quite times of the Land.

    • I think there was some hail a little up the road, unfortunately. I can’t even begin to think about snow, Tom! I just can’t! 🙂 We did have cooler temperatures today and tonight it feels like fall. I am looking forward to that!

  5. Love that song by Dwight Yoakum, one of my favorite artists! Your descriptions of “the middle of somewhere” were spot on. Been there and have experienced the same. Envy you. Enjoy and safe travels. Warmest regards…

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Laura: Learning on the road
Laura: Learning on the road avatar

High Plains Harvesting (2017-Laura)
Photo by Laura Haffner

Laura Haffner and AAWH’s Sarah Moyer talk about balancing family and business during harvest. In addition to the lessons they find from the HPH crew, she focuses on her children’s character development and creating impactful experiences for them on the road. Tune in to step into the field with Laura.

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Laura: Bad vibrations
Laura Haffner

Morgan County, Colorado – Ryan left several days ahead of us to get started in Colorado. I had several more days of paperwork and preparation before we left home again, so I was relieved to finally have it all done and hit the road late Friday morning. As soon as I hit top speed, we experienced what I would call a “major” vibration. I exited on the next road. Nothing was visually off, so I circled around and tried again… same thing. The kids thought is was hilarious and great fun. They were laughing and making the “aaaahhhhh-ahhhh-ahhhhhh” noise along with all the vibrating. I could feel my frustration rising. All the while, I said prayers of thankfulness that this happened only a couple miles from home. A few back and forth calls with Ryan, a few calls to local mechanics to see who could get me in last minute, a couple shakes at Wendy’s to pass time with the kids, several laps around Wal-Mart and visits to the pet department to watch the fish, two plus hours later we were ready to roll again. Thankfully it seems that something had just gotten out of balance, and it was nothing more serious! Continue Reading

6 Responses to Laura: Bad vibrations
Laura Haffner

  1. Super post. Laura , As a Grampa love the pic’s of Lady A & Little Man,enjoy them now. Time stands still for no one,sure nice to see that your headers are in the wheat,where is your next stop ?

    • Tom, I was just actually thinking tonight at the park that this time next year the kids will be just a little bigger and the combine cab just a little tighter. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it as you said. Bittersweet for sure.

      We are thankful that our headers are in the wheat. We have another crew currently cutting in Montana.

      • You & Ryan must have great management skills for you to have wheat to cut ,as other harvesters have run out of acres.

        • In this business, a person can have the best management skills and/or try their best to stay on top of things, but are still subject to so many things out of his or her control – weather of all forms, producer decisions, land changing hands, last minute, unpredictable things of all types, etc, etc… Despite management, if there are no acres to cut, there are no acres to cut. Wheat acres are down in the industry. We are thankful for each an every acre we have been able to cut this year. Its been a challenging year.

    • I told Ryan you said hi, Graeme! So glad you’re enjoying the posts. Maybe we should just come and spend our winter in your summer down in NZ! I’m not quite ready for summer to end! Hope your family is well!

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Laura: Kansas Complete
Laura Haffner

Sheridan County, Kansas – It has been humid lately. And by humid, I mean western Kansas humid, not eastern Kansas humid. The day I was there it was downright sweltering with temperatures in the high 90s and almost no wind. Yes, it’s not common out here to have little to no wind.

Out in that heat is where I met Stoney, a semi-retired farmer, whom wanted to come check out the “big harvest.” It has been something on his to-do list for some time, and he drove 8 hours from the east to come watch. That is REAL desire to come watch harvest on a hot July day! Of course they have harvest east of us; but the fields are often smaller, and there isn’t as much wheat in his area. The scale out west is just different. Here, the field sizes are often so much bigger, and they can hold a larger number of machines, larger headers, etc. It is a little humbling to think that someone would want to visit “US.” In my mind, we just do what we do, but I guess it is no different than me going to see other sectors of agriculture, like the strawberry patch earlier in the season.  I think we as farmers and ranchers, of whatever type, typically have a great respect for the profession and enjoy seeing and learning what goes on in other areas different than out our own backdoor. Continue Reading

2 Responses to Laura: Kansas Complete
Laura Haffner

  1. I enjoyed your write up of the John Deere harvest very much . I hope you will do this again , I am a John Deere retire ee I worked for the John Deere dealer at Holyoke Co for the Summer in 1963 I love to see pictures of the wide open prairie s with our combines in them .
    Doug Buell

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