20 May Laura Haffner: The new crew
High Plains Harvesting is excited to be entering our fourth year of harvesting and our first year as a member of the All Aboard Wheat Harvest family! While this may only be our fourth year in business, my husband, Ryan, has been around agriculture his entire life. He grew up on a farm and later got his feet wet harvesting for his uncle, who had a custom cutting crew. At age 14, Ryan left home for the first time with a crew and harvested in Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. During his school years he did farm work and worked summers for Ochs Harvesting. He continued to travel with them during the remaining summers of his high school and college years. To say harvest was his passion is an understatement. Although Ryan eventually left harvesting to seek year-round employment following college, he didn’t stray too far from his roots. He followed the harvest in both the United States and abroad with a harvest manufacturer and currently works for a planting and tillage manufacturer. In 2012, we had the opportunity to purchase the crew from the Ochs—Dan, Deb, and Shane—the family friends Ryan had spent so many years harvesting for. Since we don’t share their last name, we opted to change it to High Plains Harvesting to celebrate the area of the Plains Ryan and I both come from.
Ryan’s early harvesting career with Ochs Harvesting in Sheridan County, Kansas, circa 2001. (Photo by Ryan Haffner)
Trying to beat a storm near Sterling, Colorado, circa 2001. (Photo by Ryan Haffner.)
In regard to my custom harvesting pedigree, well, there isn’t one. I had virtually no personal experience in the custom harvesting world until we purchased the business. I was surrounded by agriculture in the rural communities in which I grew up, learned tidbits of the technical side of raising crops from my agronomist father, spent summers in a tractor mowing ditches for the county, and was a member of 4-H. All of these things sparked an interest and passion for agriculture and as a result I attended Kansas State University where I received a degree in education and minor in agronomy. During and post college I had a several jobs in the agriculture industry before returning to teaching; however, not in my wildest dreams did I ever see myself owning and traveling with a harvest crew. Not that anything was wrong with custom harvesting, it just wasn’t on my life radar! Two years into our harvest adventure, I decided to take a sabbatical from my own career to raise our family full time and help with the crew and our farm/ranch as time allowed. This summer, for the first time, I’ll be on the road full time and will help with meals, payroll, paying the bills, and may even be called into the field on occasion to operate something! We joke that Ryan married me for my CDL and God “made” me marry him because He knew I needed to beef up my faith as it take a lot of that, along with blood, sweat, and tears to survive in this business. We’re thankful to be a part of such an important part of agriculture and take great pride in helping to feed the world.
Using the stripper header near Harper, Kansas, in 2013. (Photo by Ryan Haffner.)
We’re anxious to begin cutting. We run John Deere combines and tractors with all the supporting equipment. We also run Shelbourne stripper headers, draper headers, and eight- and twelve-row corn heads for the summer and fall harvest runs.
We know this venture wouldn’t be possible without so many people. Mark, our foreman, is our right hand man and has nearly 20 years of harvesting experience. He has been with us since the start (and was with the Ochs crew as well). Our crew members will all play very important roles taking care of day-to-day operations. We are thankful for our customers, as they are why we’re in this business, to help them bring in their harvest. We also appreciate our family and friends who put up with our somewhat unconventional lifestyle!
We look forward to sharing our harvest story with you!
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.