Back to school, and off the harvest trail

Guest correspondent Scott Clark checks in for the last time this wheat harvest. Scott has returned to Oklahoma State, but Clark Farms continues harvest efforts in the upper Midwest.

Clark Harvesting has been busy harvesting canola, an oil seed crop, for the past couple weeks while waiting on the green wheat crop to mature enough to be harvested. Canola is first swathed into windrows to be picked up with a pickup header once the tough stalks have dried down, but this client had us straight-cut his crop with the same headers we use for cutting wheat.

Harvesting the canola while it’s still standing is slow going, as the tall plant is still green and the combines struggle to feed, thresh, and separate the small seeds. The desired canola seed is about the size of the point on an ink pen. We harvested with the farmer, so seven machines knocked out the large canola crop rather quickly. Yields ran about 45 bushels per acre and the test weight was around 52 pounds per bushel.

When the crew moved to wheat, the moisture was under 13 percent and they were able to begin harvesting. The wheat yields were in excess of 60 bushels per acre, and test weights were running 60 to 61 pounds per bushel. The North Dakota wheat harvest has been drawn out for most due to green wheat, but we were lucky to be able to stay busy with the canola harvest. By September 10, our crews should be done with wheat harvest for the season but just beginning another.

For many it seems as if harvest is nearly wrapped up after a long, busy summer, but my family faces the toughest part of the job—the crew and family going their separate ways. Living on the road all summer and being apart all fall is just one of the sacrifices of a custom harvesting family. I have returned to college at Oklahoma State and survived a week of engineering courses; it almost feels as if my harvest is over as well. There is still work to be done even if we’re not in the field.

The end of wheat harvest for many crews marks the beginning of fall harvest. Harvesting three crops in the fall—corn, sorghum and soybeans—means more work. Crews are often split harvesting corn in one field and soybeans in another. For Clark Farms, fall harvest is always fast paced with more equipment and men required to complete the job. Since June, we have harvested 4,000 acres per machine—about half of the season ending total. The crew will harvest in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota this fall. The combines will be spread out over the upper Midwest this fall, and I will occasionally fly up and assist the crews in getting moved around from job to job. In December we’ll make the 800-plus-mile trip back to Kansas.

The All Aboard Wheat Harvest project has come to an end for me, and it has been an enjoyable experience working with the AAWH staff and being part of the program this summer. I would like to thank High Plains Journal, DuPont, and all the sponsors that make this possible. I would like to thank the readers for following me and my crew, as well as the other crews.

Since writing my first blog, I have been recognized by followers from all across the Midwest. It most definitely completes the experience for me to run into people far and near and have them recognize me on behalf of this project. The harvest trail and the equipment have changed drastically over the years, but in many ways the harvest is still the same and the people are a rare breed. I know that my parents and our harvesting friends and acquaintances are thankful for your appreciation as we continue to harvest the grain that feeds the world year after year.

School has to be my No. 1 priority now; even for a hard-working, custom combiner like me, the curriculum of an engineering student is a full-time job. It’s tough to depict the harvest lifestyle to someone unless they’ve witnessed it themselves, but it is an opposite lifestyle when you leave the harvest trail.

Thanks to everyone again and God bless!

Clark Harvesting

A picture from last fall of our machines harvesting soybeans.

A combine harvests over the rolling plains.

Clark Harvesting

Corn harvest will begin for us in just a few weeks.

For more information contact All Aboard 2010 Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.

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