Megan: Take A Gamble

A gambler. Is it someone in a fancy casino throwing down hundred-dollar bills or is it a farmer working the land in an attempt to make a living? The fact of the matter is that in the world of agriculture, everyone is a gambler to some extent. A farmer could spend close to $60 an acre for just planting and fertilizing expenses alone. Throw in land, tractor and implement payments, along with crop insurance, and fuel costs and you can imagine how expensive this can be.

In turn, these farmers’ risks and decisions automatically influence us as harvesters. If a farmer’s crop is doing well and yielding high, it means we will be making more of a profit from that particle harvest. Unfortunately, it is the same concept if a farmer’s field is yielding below average; harvest will go more quickly but the income will not be as substantial for anyone involved. If a hail storm pommels 1,000 acres of wheat, ruining the entire crop, the farmer may only get a small compensation from their insurance company. For harvesters, that means we lose all those acres, and if we’re lucky enough we may be able to pick up another job down the road.

Since Roland Harvesting is a smaller operation we depend on our faithful customers at each of our designated stops. However, some years, due to damaging weather or retirement these “normal stops” are bypassed.  Along the harvest trail we seem to have many opportunities each year to pick up work from new farmers – often it’s just a onetime stop or sometimes it will turn into one of our yearly customers. If we have time, or can fit it in our agenda, we always try our hardest to help these farmers get their wheat out.

Due to the early harvest and quickly ripening wheat, this year has thrown quite a wrench in our plans. Then you add the heavy rains we’ve encountered into that equation and you have yourself quite the predicament. In harvesting, this type of situation adds a significant amount stress, especially when you take into account the increasing risks for the business. Do we split up the crew and have some of us stay behind to finish up our job? Do we wait and move as an entire unit and head north to a guaranteed job? If we stay will we risk losing the job up the road? If we go will we be sitting in rain for a week?

With that being said, Roland Harvesting has taken a gamble this week. Things usually run much smoother if we can keep all the combines together. Unfortunately, the rain has put us behind drastically and we have hit a type of “stalemate.” Like Dad always says, “There’s never a right or wrong way, there’s just better ways.” So, after much discussion this weekend we finally decided to take the risk and split up the crew in order to keep all of our jobs. On Saturday, Brandon and Greg traveled to Perryton, Texas with a CR and have been trying to dodge afternoon rain showers to continue working. Yesterday, we sent James, Danny, and Sean with the other CR up to Plainville, Kansas. Dad and I are staying in Helena, Oklahoma with the TR ’98 and grain cart to fight the mud and finish up here.

Unfortunately, rain shut Dad and me down around lunch time yesterday while Brandon woke up to rain in Perryton and was unable to get going again. Luckily, James and the boys had an excellent day in Plainville and were able to get a great start.

Visiting with Dad yesterday made me realize exactly what a gamble this is. He has trust and faith in Brandon and James and strongly believes they both can run their portion of the operation smoothly from their current workplaces, which are both hundreds of miles away from Dad. However, anything could go wrong, from breakdowns to weather to accidents. The list of “what ifs” is a mile long. One little mishap could unravel an entire new set of problems, costing our business crucial money along the way. Ultimately, we are putting the entire future of Roland Harvesting on the line to take a gamble and embrace these risks of splitting up the crew.

Over the years, there is one thing that Mom has embedded in my mind – “you have to have faith and believe it will all work out.” It’s true. In order to survive in agriculture, whether it’s farming or harvesting, it’s essential that you have faith and always believe – whether it’s in God, Mother Nature, the Universe, a rain stick, the Farmer’s Almanac or whatever it may be. In agriculture there is only so much power you hold. We can debate decisions and try to make plans until we’re blue in the face. But, ultimately, you reach a time where you just have to step back, accept there are factors out of your control, and take a gamble.

Part of crew pep talk
James, Brandon, and Greg listen to Dad as they discuss the new “game plan” of splitting up the crew.

Sean and Danny on camper
Sean and Danny perform some maintenance on the top of the camper. You know you’re in a rainy spell when you start fixing up the camper, just to keep yourself busy.

TR and CR in the field
The CR and TR cutting in the field together. Since the TR is lighter and has a 30 foot header it is perfect for cutting out terraces, ditches and soft ground.

Mud tracks
A close call in the mud!

James unloading at sunset
James unloads on the grain cart at sunset. The next morning he loaded up his combine and headed to Plainville, Kansas.

View from the '98
A view from inside the TR ’98. Yesterday, dark skies brought rain to our field by noon.

TR stuck in mud
With the gloomy clouds lingering yesterday Dad tried to finish cutting out the terraces before the rain set in. Unfortunately, mud got the best of us and we slid into some standing wheat while trying to backup from the mud. We were able to pull the grain cart underneath the combine to get the weight off and after much digging and working at it Dad was finally able to drive out.

Wheat in North Platte, NE on 6/5
Can you believe this is a wheatfield near North Platte, Nebraska taken on June 4th?! It looks like southern Nebraska harvest is not far off, especially if the wind and hot weather sets in. Thank you to my sister, Ashley Matkin, for sharing this photo!

All Aboard Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and Syngenta. Megan can be reached at


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