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Laura: Learning on the road

High Plains Harvesting (2017-Laura)

Photo by Laura Haffner

Laura Haffner and AAWH’s Sarah Moyer talk about balancing family and business during harvest. In addition to the lessons they find from the HPH crew, she focuses on her children’s character development and creating impactful experiences for them on the road. Tune in to step into the field with Laura.


There’s always something to learn from our each guys and they contribute to the team in a special way.

Welcome on to this All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ podcast. I’m Sarah Moyer, and she is educated in agricultural science and has a background in agronomy. Laura Haffner of High Plains Harvesting is our featured All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ correspondent. Juggling everything that is involved with harvest, all the moving pieces, how is having kiddos also involved with harvest change the dynamics of harvest?

Sarah, I think with anything, kids change everything. And it’s definitely positive. It’s a positive thing to have the kids out there. I think they see a lot. They experience a lot, especially for their age. I think they’re exposed to things – good and bad – that maybe their peers aren’t, but I can tell it’s changing them in a positive light. As for me, it’s definitely changed my role in the harvest crew. I know some moms are wonder mom, and they can balance it. And they drive combine while holding babies and do all kinds of stuff. But for our operation, that’s not what works for us. So, my role is probably more of a hands off [role] as far as the day-to-day in-field operations and more of the behind the scenes role as far as the paperwork and just holding things together behind the scenes. But, it has been a positive change to have the kids on board, and it’s fun to see it through their eyes.

Could you give an example of a time that you saw some real learning going on out in the field or out during harvest?

I can’t say due their ages that there’s a specific moment… But I think just interacting with different people. You know they’re around different people of different ages and different backgrounds, and I know that shaping their development as well as just being adaptable. They’re in a bunch of different environments and locations, and they have to adapt to those. This is just our lives, and we just have to survive as opposed to being in a one place all the time, which has its benefits too. But I think they’re definitely adaptable and you know just learning to be around different people right now… In time, I think they’ll really see the value of a good work ethic and… the importance of agriculture to society. But those are some things that will probably come with maturity.

In one of your posts, you were mentioning that your kids were really enjoying the John Deere coloring books that they had. What other on-the-road activities do you always bring along or always pack in the camper that they enjoy during harvest?

You know, we have like a little shelf or a little cupboard that’s just for their toys. And usually, of course, we pack along all of our farming, because we have to have our own personal harvest crew in the camper and to take to the field. You know, they get to take a bunch of books. You can’t check out library books on the road, so we always have a good supply of those… but I think some of the best parts about being on the road of harvest is every little town have something special to offer whether it’s some town festival, a museum that’s unique to the area, a wildlife area; and we really try to spend a lot of time outside the camper. I want them to see what different areas have to offer, and each individual place has something for them to learn. So I think that’s where they experience a lot of fun things is outside the camper, but definitely we do provide enrichment for them when they’re inside too.

Are there are a lot of combine rides or rides in the truck?

I mean we try to get the field at least once a day, but it is a business. Depending on what’s happening at the time, it may or may not be appropriate to go for a ride. So of course they try to catch a ride whenever they can, or they try to spend much time with Dad as possible, but sometimes… I tell my friends, you know just like you couldn’t take your kid to the office, we can’t always have the kids out in the field at all times. It’s just not safe with their ages… We never know what we’re going to find when we show up. Everything might be running perfectly smoothly and having a great day, but sometimes there could be breakdowns or different issues needing to be addressed that maybe are not as ideal for having children on board. So, yeah, we do try to do as much as we can, but sometimes the situation dictates what the day will bring.

And that makes a lot of sense. Of course safety is an important aspect, so I’m sure they’re learning a lot about that in addition to agriculture… And I’m sure that helps break up harvest.

Some days they could probably ride all day long and sometimes they’re just done. So yeah, it really does help break it up.

We’ll go ahead and take a short break. Once again this is Laura Haffner. She is of High Plains Harvesting. In a moment we will speak about the diverse backgrounds of that crew. There are several international crew members, so they do bring some interesting perspective to harvest at times. But first, let’s go ahead and thank our primary sponsors for this All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ podcast… High Plains Journal and John Deere. Thank you for your contributions.

At the (AAWH) Kickoff Event that was towards the beginning of the harvest season, Laura, you mentioned that you had a really great crew and some returners. And one of your posts mentioned that they had decals on their combines if they were a returner, so what’s your crew relationship like?

Yeah, it’s different from year to year just because, like any team you know, there’s returning players and new players. And it can definitely vary based on personalities, but it is a lot of fun when you have those guys who have come back. And it starts to turn into family. And it’s going to be kind of strange, especially some of those 3-year guys… I know at some point they’re going to decide to change directions and pursue either other areas of harvest or agriculture or go back home; and it’s definitely going to be strange when they’re around a lot on your crew, and you hear stories or witness them personally, they do become like family. So it is fun to have those guys coming back year after year, but it’s also fun to have new guys. We have some guys from the Isle of Man this year, and that’s kind of in that area of the U.K. And one thing that’s funny, they saw snakes for the first time and lizards. They don’t have snakes and lizards on their island back home. So with the guys that we bring in, whether they’re Americans or our foreign workers, there’s always something to learn from each of our guys; and they contribute to the team in a special way.

And about how many crew members do you have?

You’re going to put me on the spot… You know, I would say around thirteen-ish right now. But at a different times of the year, depending on the hauls, and the fall crop and wheat crop have different implications… Those numbers can fluctuate. We might we might go up a little bit more in the fall, because it takes a lot more truck power. But I think right now, we’re running around thirteen.

They even seem to contribute on some of your photos. I know that there will be notes that they were submitted from some of your crew members and give some variety to what your sharing with us during All Aboard. Right?

Absolutely. It is great when they send their pictures… They’re the one doing it day after day, and I can’t always be there like they are in the field… It is different, I think, as an operator versus maybe my role as the owner… just what they’re witnessing, things that are new, whether there are new places every year. I just think they add a lot of value to the blog or to our Facebook page in that way, just to see what they’re experiencing and what they find value in or what they find beautiful in their travels.

And how did some of them get connected with your company, with your business?

Sure, at this point some of our returns are telling friends or cousins or other family members about us, and they brought other people over. But we also run through an agency. As you can imagine when working with labor, whether American or foreign, that there’s a lot of hoops to jump through as far as the Department of Labor and different things. We have to work with an agency that can help put us in touch with workers wanting to come to America to work. There are several avenues. If we know of someone firsthand whose interested, we can put them in touch with our agency to get the appropriate paperwork and different things started. But, yeah, there are several different avenues we can take to obtain workers.

That was All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ correspondent Laura Haffner of High Plains Harvesting. We’d like to thank our contributing partners to this podcast… AgriPro, Unverferth Manufacturing Company, I.T.C. and the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children’s Ten Acre Challenge. And again, thank you to High Plains Journal and John Deere for their support. To stay up to date on everything All Aboard, visit allaboardharvest.com You can also check us out on Facebook and Twitter… the Twitter handle being @AllAboardTour. I’m Sarah Moyer, and thank you for listening in. This has been another All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ podcast.

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