Jada: Preparations for heading South

Washing equipment

Roly washing equipment while my nephew Bryce looks on.

Many of my friends, who are farmers or have family that farm, think that harvest is the most stressful time of the year. They cannot believe we subject ourselves to the stress for an entire summer. However, the difference between custom harvesting and harvesting your own crop is vast. When harvesting your own land you have to worry about other important tasks such as marketing, grain storage, and weed control that happen simultaneously to harvest. A custom harvester’s main focus is harvest.  This makes the task less stressful.

Leon and Mark working on grain cart auger

Leon and Mark working on the grain cart auger to get it shape for harvest

In my opinion, preparation is one of the most stressful parts of a harvester’s job. There is much more to custom harvesting than harvest—a lot of preparation goes unnoticed. During the months before harvest, there is a lot of maintenance needed on an operation with every piece of machinery. We are either replacing or repairing tires on all the equipment, repairing or servicing used machinery, organizing the service trailer and buying or finding tools in the shop to replace those that are missing. The equipment also needs to be cleaned, loaded and equipped with the proper signage and necessary items for moving. This includes: tarp straps, hitches, combine windshield covers, wide load signs, flags and much more.

Grain cart repair

Josh working on the grain cart tarp

Before this, the important paperwork needs to be completed. My mother is in charge of this task which takes A LOT of organization. While every vehicle and piece of machinery that goes on harvest needs to get new insurance and registration, men need to be hired, the new machinery needs numbers on them, and forms necessary for running an organized harvest need to be prepared such as log books and load sheets. The equipment also has to be inspected by the Department of Transportation and Safety before we leave for the summer. A certified professional performs this inspection to ensure the equipment is running properly. He will check for working equipment lights and properly aired brakes. Someday the tasks my mother performs will be my job, but for now I leave these difficult tasks to her.

Working cattle

Perry and Henrry loading calves to be hauled out to pasture.

In addition to this, our operation has beef cattle and farms its own land. Since we are from South Dakota, that means we have to finish calving, work the cattle, put the cattle out to pasture and seed our land before we embark on our journey for the summer. These tasks make this time of the year chaotic. We go from having the four of us—Perry, Candice, Leon and myself—to having a full crew in what seems like the blink of an eye. For my dad and Leon, keeping everyone busy is almost a full time job especially when there are new crew members that need to be trained. For my mother and I, the hardest part is getting used to cooking for that many people and preparing all three campers ready for harvest.


We have to get our own land seeded/ planted before we leave on harvest.

Right now it is a cold spring in South Dakota which makes it hard to imagine that it is 80 to 90 degrees in Texas and the crop is almost ready to harvest. People who do not know much about custom harvesting find it hard to grasp the fact that the Texas harvest begins in mid-May. Unfortunately, for our operation, it all comes too fast. We are all loaded and part of the operation is on the go! All Aboard! Here we go!

Parked by house to pack

We park directly beside our houses to make loading our campers easier. We pack everything we need to ensure our home on wheels is as comfortable as “home” when we are away from home.

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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