All Aboard Harvest | Janel: Wheat Harvest Is My Summer Routine
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Janel: Wheat Harvest Is My Summer Routine

Holdrege, Nebraska – Hello!  I am Janel Schemper and this is my first AAWH blog.  I am a third generation custom harvester.  I’ve been going on harvest my entire life.  The 1950s was the start of my family business known as “Schemper Harvesting.”  My grandpa, Jerry Schemper, was brave enough to leave his farm and went out on the road and made himself a living in the custom harvesting business.  My Dad, LaVern Schemper, is the oldest of six kids and is a second generation custom harvester.  I have a lifelong bond with my parents (LaVern and Carlene) and three older siblings (Julie, JC and Jared) through our family business.  The combine cab was where I spent my time with my Dad or siblings riding along with them and learned all about operating a combine.  Otherwise, my time was spent riding with my Mom in a truck hauling many loads of grain to the elevators or grain storage sites.  When we would move from location to location and travel across the Great Plains states following the wheat belt, I would ride with my Dad in a truck hauling a combine and I always felt better riding along with Dad.  He always found a way to include me and taught me that part of being boss is keeping your eyes on everyone and double-checking everything.  He’d say, “Janel, look in the mirror and tell me who you see behind us.”  So, I’d go down the line first to last saying something like this, “white top, red top, #3, junior, the pickup and trailer house” and so on, you get the picture.  He had a way of being organized and professional and he always made me proud and happy just being with and working alongside him.  At the time, I never thought I’d one day be the one to be taking the lead and driving a truck and hauling a combine down the road.  I have always enjoyed getting to be a part of the harvest crew!  Some things just never change! 😉

When I was thirteen years old, I was operating a combine full-time during the summer months.  That was 20+ years ago.  After I finished my school years, I continued harvesting and our harvests typically last seven to eight months each year.  The years have gone by far too quickly.  As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get out of school for the summer and go harvesting.  I just always looked forward to the harvest.  As soon as I weighed enough to keep the combine header going due to a micro switch in the combine seat, I was in the driver’s seat.  However, the combine header would occasionally shut off during my teenage years due to my “light weight.”  I would sometimes have to set a coffee can full of nuts and bolts on my combine seat armrest to add the necessary weight and I made it work just fine.

Going on harvest has kept me super busy.  Harvest for me is definitely the best way to grow up!  I would not have had it any other way.  I will always be in love with all of those amber waves of grain!  It is always quite the sight!  For the rest of my life, harvest time will always hold a special place in my heart.  To my family it is not so much a job; it has become a tradition and a way of life that is now into the fourth generation.  I will continue to support our family harvesting business in the growing generations. 

The work ethic I have gained through each harvest season has been a great learning experience and I continue to learn and polish my skills every single day.  I was taught early on that it takes a lot of work to be a harvester.  Typical days in the field are 12-18 hours and is what it takes to get the job done.  I learned responsibility at a young age.  My Dad taught me all that and I learned to accept and do what was expected of me and to not ever complain about work but be glad for the opportunity and ability to work.  I have also learned about patience through the custom harvesting business.  It sometimes seems that we are in the “hurry up and wait” business.  We may push hard to get to our next job or field and start cutting only to find that the crop is not ready yet or it’s happened before where a rain shower beat us to it.  Sitting and waiting for grain to dry is sometimes what we have to do.  Heat and wind are often what it takes to get the appropriate harvesting conditions we need to make progress.  The weather plays a huge role in our day to day work and can be quite the challenge. 

When people ask me questions like don’t you miss being home or how can you stand to be away from home for so long and I always think of our military.  Our military service men and women sacrifice their life for our country.  They leave home and fight for our country.  Some do not get to come back home (alive) and some come back injured and others have PTSD.  What I do for a living is possible because of their sacrifice.  My Dad is a veteran and it’s just been instilled in me to think about the bigger picture.  The United States of America is the land of the free because of the brave.  Have that for a mindset while harvesting (away from home) and you’ll do just fine.

I’ve gained a lot by being able to experience the “American Harvest” year after year.  I’ve always felt fortunate that I have a family to get to go to harvest with.  It is a unique occupation no doubt about it and it is not for everyone.  It takes an exceptional work ethic, excellent work habits, honesty, responsibility, a grown up attitude and serious business professionalism and dedication to fulfill a harvest season year after year (typically May through November).  The future of agriculture will always be exciting in my opinion.  I want to be a part of the continuous excitement.  I’d like to dedicate this blog today to those who know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to appreciating the amber waves of grain and this beautiful country and lifestyle.  Thank you to all that have contributed to the success of my family business, Schemper Harvesting from Holdrege, Nebraska.


This is Janel Schemper in a Nebraska wheat field.


Jared, JC, Lonny and LaVern are the Schemper Harvesting partners.


This is a picture of the Schemper family in the 1980s and left to right is JC, Julie, Jared, Janel (me) and my Dad LaVern. We had just gotten to our first harvest stop that we still have to this day! You can see the standing water behind the Texas sign and like it has happened many times before, we get there and it rains.


Janel Schemper in a truck in a wheat field 1980s.


Here is an excellent crew if you ever saw one! Look at all of those smiles! These guys know how to work for a living! We always appreciate the good guys that like to work! (photo by Janel)

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere.  You can contact Janel at

  • jeff kelley
    Posted at 15:10h, 19 May

    Hi Janel
    Nice column. I have been following this website for 3+ years. It’s interesting to hear how others live.I will be watching this year as well. Bye

  • Darla
    Posted at 17:24h, 19 May

    I know exactly what you mean because I grew up in a family wheat harvest business and traveled from Oklahoma to Montana cutting those amber waves of grain. My dad started his business the year I was born (1958) but we did not go as a family until 1967. Before I was able to be a hand in the field I helped my mom with cooking and laundry detail, interspersed with a few hours of swimming at the local pool or riding bikes with the other harvest kids. If mom did have to take a load to the elevator she always wanted me along to untarp her truck, but I didn’t mind because it usually meant a free bottle of my favorite soda in a hot afternoon. As soon as I was able, I was unloading on the go in the field but couldn’t drive to town because I wasn’t old enough to have a license. Dad slowly trained me on the combine, running for someone while they had a short break for a meal (heaven forbid if the combine was stopped for any reason other than a breakdown or to be refueled and serviced). I couldn’t even say what year I became a full-time truck or combine operator because it happened so gradually. All I know is I loved spending my summers with my family, sleeping in a 27′ trailer house either on a farmers yard or in a small town trailer court. The places we worked are like hometowns to me and the people we worked for were extended family. After receiving a teaching degree, I still was able to make the harvest run during the summer months. Then I met an Oklahoma wheat farmer and my harvester days came to an end. Now I’ve seen harvest from the other side for over 30 years. And our harvesters are like extended family to me. I look forward to reading AAWH this summer and reliving my days as a “wheatie.”

  • Sharon
    Posted at 21:22h, 19 May

    Easy to see your passion, Janel!
    Wonderful to get a glimpse into your life….well said.
    Have a safe & prosperous 2017 season.

  • Mom
    Posted at 23:14h, 19 May


  • Sherry Zirnhelt
    Posted at 10:54h, 20 May

    Wonderful blog Janel!
    Loved our twenty two years on harvest, raising four kids while working in all conditions. Your story brought back so many memories, it is a lifestyle that you have to experience to understand. Still miss it!

  • Bonnie Postma
    Posted at 15:00h, 20 May

    Wow what a great attitude about work ethic and agriculture ,something a farm parent is very proud of in their children when they stay on the farm !Glad to see your love of Ag show through .

  • Mary Greenberg
    Posted at 19:44h, 20 May

    Loved your article,. Have a blessed and safe harvest. From this farmers daughter to another. Keep up the good work. Found you on Sue Steinke’s facebook.

  • Ricardo A. Senteio Rocon
    Posted at 07:14h, 21 May

    Parabéns pela dedicação que tem pelo seu maravilhoso trabalho,trabalho este que nos traz o pão de cada dia dando sustentabilidade a nossas vidas.