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Janel: Family of harvesters

Schemper 2017 - Kansas Wheat Harvest

Photo by Janel Schemper

Janel Schemper is on the line with AAWH’s Sarah Moyer to chat about Schemper Harvesting and the family involved with their operation. She also discusses her love of small town businesses, which line the harvest trail. Tune in to step into the field with Janel.


It works well for us. I don’t think we could do it without having all the family involved.

Welcome on to this All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ podcast. I’m Sarah Moyer here with the Nebraska native Janel Schemper. Janel, I’d like to talk today about the family aspect of the family business that is Schemper Harvesting. However, to start things off there are many tools in a custom harvester’s tool box, but living life on the road and harvesting wheat in the way that you do changes the perspective of how someone might look at their priorities. So in your opinion, what do you think a custom harvesters survival kit would look like, if one came up with a kit such as that?

Oh, gosh. I could probably think of five or six things. For one, a cell phone for business communication… I guess cell phones have only been around for probably fifteen or twenty years; but I can remember back when dad would meet with farmers in the morning at coffee, and they’d make a plan for the day. And he might not see the farmer again until the next morning. But you know, a lot of things can change during a day’s time. So I suppose that’s why a lot of those guys smoked cigarettes, because they didn’t have communication with how it is now. So a lot of decisions had to be made on your own. I guess that’s how they made decisions was through having a cigarette to think about it for a minute…  Another thing that I wouldn’t be able to go without is, you know, having a camper. I love my camper. I’ve had to stay in a motel before when we had to split the combines, and I think I was in a motel for like seven to ten days or maybe two weeks. And it’s alright. It’s definitely doable, but I can’t imagine doing that the whole seven, eight months a year that we’re harvesting. Another thing that’s great about having a camper is a home cooked meal when you have a kitchen, and you know I have my ice cream maker. So I like to make ice cream whenever I want… And then of course having a washer and dryer, so you don’t spend one morning a week in the Laundromat. Of course, probably having my own space and a closet full of clothes [is great]. I like having a camper. It’s nice.

You work with your family out in the field, and that has to come with some definite benefits and probably some conflict at times. What is that like for you?

It’s all good. I enjoy working with family. I prefer working with family. Well, I can read their mind most of the time, and I’m sure they can read my mind most of the time. So it works out pretty well for all of us, I think. You know I look out for them, and they look out for me. And we all need and appreciate that. I can’t imagine going to harvest with anybody else.

I’m sure trust is an important factor as you’re harvesting, because you’re around equipment, there’s some stress involved at times… and how do you think that relates back to working with family?

Sometimes people, or you know family, can get tired and cranky. You know, imagine that, I guess. After all, we are working really crazy long hours. But, for as much time as we do spend together, we get along very well. It works well for us. I don’t think we could do it without having all the family involved.

And your crew is mostly family. Correct?

Yeah, we have my mom, dad, two brothers. And then of course, we have probably just as many helpers… or more, but we have always had a boss presence.

For the crew members for Schemper Harvesting that are not blood relatives, I’m sure that over time there are some relationships built there. Correct?

There are. We’ve been real lucky the past five or six years having really good helpers… Not only the past five or six years, we’ve had, you know, lots of years of really good helpers. But this year we’ve got all new helpers… It’s tough. I mean when you’ve got people that are returning, I guess, year after year it helps a lot. I guess we do have one guy that returns every year, but for the most part it’s pretty challenging.

With that we’ll take a short break, and when we resume our conversation we’d like to discuss Janel’s hometown – how she stays connected and supports that community. And additionally, Miss Moo has had some competition for the buddy seat in the combine as there have been a couple younger Schempers traveling along on the harvest run. We would now like to thank our primary sponsors for this All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ podcast. Those being High Plains Journal and John Deere. Thank you for your contributions.

In relation to your hometown community, you’ve worn a shirt in some of your combine selfies that’s from your hometown and a business there. What does small town business mean to you both as a native of a small town, and on the harvest trail you of course are in many smaller communities?

Right, I love small town businesses. You know it doesn’t bother me one bit to not ever go to a city. These small towns need business. It’s sad that the small towns across America are fading. We’ve gotta have them. You know, these ag communities need businesses in town, and I will always support small town business.

When you’re out on the road, Janel, life goes on at home and for your community. How do you stay connected to what’s going on in the place that you call home in the months that harvest isn’t going on?

OK, yeah, I come from a really great community. It’s a big ag community. I do have, you know, a lot of friends there, but honestly I feel like I don’t have a whole lot of friends. I’m basically working all the time seven to eight months a year. So, you know, I might hear from friends through Facebook and Instagram, but really my phone doesn’t ring that much unless it’s business. I don’t know. It’s kind of sad, but that’s the way it is, I guess.

But you do have those strong connections with your family, and we’ve seen that your nephew had been riding along with you at some points. How is that special for you to be able to have some family come visit you on the harvest trail?

Oh, it’s really great. I love having the family along. I have two brothers. And JC’s got three boys, and all three of them have ridden in the combine with me this year. And then my other brother, Jared, has five kids, but I don’t really see them at all during harvest. But I also have a sister, and she’s got three kids. I only see her about twice a year here for Thanksgiving and then Christmas. She lives about five hours from Holdrege. We basically just communicate through the cell phone, and that’s about it. It is nice having a few kids around harvest with us.

I’m sure they bring some extra life to the harvest crew and evenings at the campground. And I am almost sure that they enjoy your homemade ice cream when you make it.

Right, it’s definitely fun having them around.

That once again was Janel Schemper of Schemper Harvesting. She is one of our five All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ correspondents. Janel’s blog posts and photos in addition to the other correspondents’ reports from harvest are available here on the allaboardharvest.com website. And this project could not take part without our partners: 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. We appreciate your support. Tune in again next Thursday when we speak with [John Deere Harvester Works Customer Support] team’s Mike Barnett about his final run here on the harvest trail. He is well known among many customers harvesters, who will look forward to that. Until then, I’m Sarah Moyer, and you’ve been listening to this All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ podcast.

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