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Meet Jada

Jada Bulgin By Jada Bulgin

From the day I was born, harvest has been a part of my life. My parents, custom harvesters Perry and Candice Hoffman, have always said “You either love or hate harvest. If you love it, it gets in your blood.”

To understand, you must have lived the life of a custom harvester for at least one summer. If you have had the pleasure of this experience, and aren’t currently in the business, I know you have either decided custom harvesting is not for you, or are addicted and miss it.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to join a custom harvesting crew, now is your chance to follow my family’s operation–Hoffman Harvesting–as we start our journey for the 2009 summer harvest. All Aboard!

My name is Jada Bulgin and this summer, I will be one of two correspondents reporting for the All Aboard Wheat Harvest, sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection. New to 2009, the All Aboard Wheat Harvest coverage will be available for your reading pleasure both in print and online. Join Jenna Zeorian, of Zeorian Harvesting, and I as we give you dedicated harvest news coverage straight from the field to the comfort of your home.

Our family

Like myself, my father was born into the harvesting world where he learned the specifics of the industry as he grew up helping his father with his harvesting business. At the age of 17, he decided to branch off and start his own harvesting business. This is where Perry Hoffman Harvesting began. He had two 6600 John Deere combines, two trucks and a one-and-a-half ton truck that was used as a service unit. In 1974, my mother, Candice, joined Perry’s hand in marriage and in the business. Since then, she has been in charge of cooking, billing and serving the business as a trusted advisor.

I guess you can say harvest is in my blood just as it is in my parents. The first year I went on harvest was when my mom was pregnant with me, and, with the exception of three or four years, I have been on the harvest crew since.

Today, my husband and I play a management role in the operation. I help cook, take the evening meal to the field and run a combine while the crew eats. I also perform marketing tasks such as designing marketing collateral, business cards and posters, and play “Go-fer” whenever it is needed. My job is to “go” wherever I am needed–on parts runs, helping move equipment from one field to another (this ranges from operating different equipment to even standing on the side of the road with a stop sign), running the combine when the operation is in a pinch and much more.

My husband, Leon, is a transplant into the harvest world. It sometimes even surprises me that this city boy from Johannesburg, South Africa was made for his job as foreman of the crew.

Leon’s interest in harvesting helped spark the interest of his sister, Carin, who is about to embark on her second year of harvesting. So, as you can see, we really are a family-owned operation and are proud of it.

Our crew

We also have veteran crew members, Charles and Jozua (pronounced Joshua) of South Africa, who have shared six and four years of harvest with us respectively, and Henry a third-time member of our crew from Honduras. The new members of our crew for 2009 are Rolland (Roly), Robert, Mark, and Euan–all of Scotland.

Throughout the years, we have had people from all over the world come to work for us. It is so much fun to have diversity but in the beginning getting used to all the different accents can be rather challenging and interesting. I always thought that what goes on during the harvesting season could make for an interesting reality show. The All Aboard Wheat Harvest project will allow me to share stories of our crew and past crews.

The season

The length of the harvest is next to impossible to determine and varies from season to season. Weather plays a huge role in determining this and, needless to say, harvesters learn to enjoy Mother Nature’s unpredictability. As a result, I think every harvester shares the motto: “We work hard and we play hard.” While on harvest, we never know when or where we are going to be. This can be both frustrating and exciting. Nonetheless, it adds to the allure of harvest.

This year we will have four combines instead of our usual three, several Kenworth semis and a tractor and grain cart. We also travel with our homes on wheels.

Our summer and fall harvest run typically starts in Texas and ends in North Dakota. Several of our harvest stops are regular stops since the beginning of Hoffman Harvesting, but a new stop is usually added each summer.

I enjoy moving to each stop and reuniting with the people we have come to know as family at the places known to us as home away from home. I also like new harvest stops because you never know who you will meet.

Harvesters are a close-knit group and a new stop might even mean you will happen to cross the path of a harvester friend’s camper, or combine, or truck or, in this case, another All Aboard crew’s path.

Right now, though, I have to go and get my camper packed for the season.

Toot! Toot! All Aboard! The whistle signals our journey known as the 1,000-mile harvest run will soon begin, and most importantly you’ll be along for the ride.

Jada Bulgin can be reached at jada@allaboardharvest.com. All Aboard 2009 Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.


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