Jada: Harvesting in Colby, Kan.

Gem elevator

John, with the help of his wife Marietta, has managed the Gem elevator for 18 years. They have four children: George of Benton, Kan., Daryl of Cozad, Neb., and Amy and Sara, both of Colby, Kan. In addition, they have 12 grandchildren.

Gem is a small town of 60 people, but the farmers in the area do “big” things. When harvest barely began, the elevator took in 85,000 bushels of wheat. On a good day, the elevator takes in 110,000 bushels to 115,000 bushels of wheat. Gem elevator manager, John Strecker, hopes to take in 800,000 to 900,000 bushels of wheat this year.

Four in row first dumping
Jada takes the opportunity for a photo op while all four combines are still in the same town and not split up. Tomorrow some of our crew will be in Goodland, Kan., and some will finish up here in Colby, Kan.

John and his wife Marietta, have been managed the elevator for 18 years and has seen both good and bad crops bless this area. When asked when the area received the best crop, he replied with 1999. The wheat crop yielded between the 50s and 60s bushels per acre and the elevator received 6 to 5 million bushels of grain.

Neighbor corn fields
Corn neighbors many of the wheat fields we cut.

This year, the crop is even better but since this area grows more milo and dry land corn, there is less wheat crop. As far as yields, this year is the best year he has had overall. The yields are ranging from 50 to 70 bushels per acre on summer fallow crop. Strecker said that the area received moisture in the fall and spring including two good rains in both April and March. The rain blessed both the fall and the summer fallow crop.

Euan and Mark in graincart
Euan and Mark in the graincart. Euan tops off Mark’s truck so he can make another trip to the elevator.

Strecker added that the cool nights allow farmers to raise such good crops in the area—especially corn. This year the crop is so good that there have not been any dockages at the elevator.

“We have good farmers in this area,” said Strecker. “They do things right and follow the book. When crops need spraying they do it. If we get rain, we get a good crop out here.”

I can’t say I disagree with him; the first quarter of wheat that Hoffman Harvesting cut averaged around 64 bushels per acre with test weights of 58 to 62.

Leon looks on at the action
Tall wheat graces the fields we have cut in Colby, Kan. (Leon is 6′ tall). Leon looks on in satisfaction at the job our combine operators are doing after checking the ground to make sure they aren’t throwing any wheat over.

That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a bad crop year here. This area receives an average of 20 inches of rain annually. Strecker remembers 1995 to be the driest year. He said the area received 7 to 10 inches of rain. It was very dry which prevented the crop from reaching its maximum potential.

Leaving us in the dust
Leaving us in the dust—or shall I say chaff! Combine number 2 cuts a corner.

Rain has definitely not been an issue this year. In fact, harvesters and farmers alike are saying rain rain go away! Last night we got rained out again. With just a little work left to do at this stop, our crew is destined to be split up for a couple of days. Charles moved to Goodland, Kan., yesterday. More of our crew will move to our next stop.

Dumping on truck

Interesting tidbit on the Gem Elevator’s history

When Strecker began managing the Gem elevator, it was a wooden elevator and had not been used for 5 to 6 years. Apparently, the elevator had two tornados that took away the elevator and prompted the past owners to not rebuild. Today, this successful elevator is part of 8 other elevators Strecker manages and holds up to 900,000 bushels of wheat each year.

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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