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Megan: Newbies Survive North Dakota

After almost two weeks on the job we finally finished harvest in North Dakota earlier this week. We ended up having three days of rain that delayed us a bit but besides that we pushed through and got ‘er done. Since this was our first time ever working in North Dakota it was full of excitement and adventures for us. Luckily we were able to survive the stop and managed to learn a whole lot along the way. The one thing we noticed about “up north” is that grain elevators are sparse and farmers are far more likely to unload their wheat into their own grain bins. On our harvest run down south about 95 percent of the wheat we harvest is taken to a grain elevator while maybe one or two truckloads are taken to the farmer’s bin for seed wheat for the following year. In western North Dakota, almost all of the grain we harvested was taken to the farmer’s drying or storage bins. This seems to be the “norm” in the area and we quickly adjusted to their way of operating.

While finishing up the last of the wheat in North Dakota we also had the opportunity to harvest a few fields of flax seed for our farmer’s neighbor. Although none of the boys even knew what flax was or how to harvest it we certainly figured it out quickly. (Flax seed can be processed into an edible oil or used as a nutritional supplement.) While making the first round we discovered that the actual seeds were plenty ripe but unfortunately the straw was green and extremely tough (almost rope-like), which led to many complications with the sickles on the header. We found out it’s much different than harvesting wheat but it was an interesting switch up for us. After numerous quick repairs on the headers we were able to knock out all the flaxseed. It was pretty exciting to experience two different “firsts” during this stop – first time harvesting in North Dakota and the first time harvesting flax seed!

While visiting with our farmer I learned that last year his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. As our conversation continued he told me about a local nonprofit organization, Farm Rescue, who helped out his family last summer while his wife was very sick from receiving treatments. Farm Rescue is a one-of-a-kind organization based out of Jamestown, North Dakota that plants and harvests crops free of charge for family farmers who have suffered a major injury, illness or natural disaster. They are able to provide such a service with the help of volunteers, sponsors and individual donors. Last year, Farm Rescue came in and helped harvest our farmer’s wheat for two weeks so he was able to take his wife to doctor appointments and treatments. I found this story to be so heartwarming and touching. Farming is about so much more than just planting and harvesting crops. It’s about being a “good neighbor” and helping someone out when they need it. It’s about trust, faith, compassion, dedication, and sincerity. Agriculture itself symbolizes all of these characteristics and many more. I believe organizations such as Farm Rescue are able to tie in every aspect of agriculture, which is just amazing.  To read more about Farm Rescue and their mission check out their website online at:  http://farmrescue.org/.

Pretty wheat pic
Soaking up the last of the wheat!

Oil rigs everywhere
There are tons of oil rigs everywhere around Dickinson, North Dakota! The dynamics in the area are quite interesting since it’s very evident that agriculture takes priority. If a loaded wheat truck is headed down a dirt road and meets an oil truck, the oil truck will pull over immediately. This was certainly not the case when we were down in Oklahoma.

CR's unloading
The CR’s load up the semi before it takes off for our farmer’s grain bins.  

Finishing the last of the wheat
Harvest is far from being over for us but this is most likely the last wheat field we will cut this year.

Brandon and James work on settings
Brandon and James discuss the different settings for flax seed.

Brandon works on header
Brandon gives his header a little attention before he starts combining the flax. Due to the green straw he had to change out many broken sickles once he began cutting.

Flax seed
I personally don’t think flax seed is as photogenic as wheat but maybe I’m a little bias.

James works on header
One of the many stops that had to be made due to a plugged header. James uses a bar to help loosen up all the straw packed in between the sickles.

Combing in flax
Harvesting away some flax seed in North Dakota.

All packed up
The bags are all packed up and thrown in so it must be time to go. And yes, we literately live out of suitcases all summer long!

Convoy moving to Wyoming
Part of the convoy rollin’ down I-94 through Montana as we make our way to northern Wyoming, where we will meet Mom and Dad to help harvest malt barley.

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

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