28 May Janel: On The Road Again
Holdrege, Nebraska – I just can’t wait to get on the road again! Laugh out loud! How can it be harvest time again already? I am Janel Schemper and a third generation U.S. custom harvester. I cannot wait to be back in the fields harvesting those beautiful amber waves of grain and seeing the best sunsets that our country has to offer during the harvest season from May thru November. I have spent every summer of my life following the wheat harvest from Texas to North Dakota. I went south for my first harvest at only five months old. I am the youngest of four kids and always loved the family time and all the hours we spent on the road harvesting together as a family. Anyone that knows my mom and dad has always told me how fortunate I am to have good parents. I couldn’t agree more. I often thank the good Lord for the blessings in my life and am so proud to still be harvesting with my mom and dad and two brothers JC and Jared. For me, the best part of harvesting is working alongside family. They’ve always been my priority. It’s a unique occupation but trust me when I say this next statement. This life ain’t for everybody!
Growing up we’d leave for harvest as soon as school got out in May and then return from harvest the night before school began in late August. We’d follow the harvest trail all summer long harvesting crops for farmers across the Great Plains of America. When us kids were old enough to learn the feel of being behind the wheel we were hooked! We were Dad’s crew and he taught us so much. We all started out operating combines at a young age. My favorite part of harvesting is combine time. Every hour I get in the combine harvesting crops is a blessing in my mind.
Harvest time is a lot of early mornings and late nights but that’s what it takes to make a living in this business. Custom harvesting is a service that relieves the farmer of having to invest in machinery and labor that can be very costly. The harvester harvests the crops in a timely fashion. Weather is always threatening to damage the crop before it is harvested. This is where I learned the value of time at a very young age. It seems we are always pushed to the limit trying to do the best harvesting job possible and keeping customers happy. They expect an outstanding service and are always counting on us to harvest their crops correctly and efficiently. We always do our very best. Racing the weather is huge in this business.
Getting to work for the same farmers every harvest season is always a blessing. A job and a place to count on along the harvest trail is often what we need to survive the harvesting business. However, this year I am very sad that our farmer in northeast Colorado retired and we won’t be stopping there to harvest his wheat. He’s always been there and we could always count on him to have a place to go and wheat for us to cut. We harvested there 30 plus years and I’ll miss that this year big time.
My job duties include operating a combine and driving a truck hauling the combine and header from location to location on our harvest route. I have a Class A CDL with endorsements and will often times also haul a load of grain to the elevator first thing in the morning or when needed. I also stay busy hiring the crew and trying to find the best help possible. I am excited to have my niece, Sierra, on harvest this year since she just graduated high school and doesn’t have any summer activities now. She will also be harvesting with us this fall at home in Nebraska and will begin college in November. I hope she’ll gain an understanding of what the generations before us have built up for us in this business. Also, gain an insight into all the work it takes to make this business go.
Overall, I am looking forward to the upcoming harvest and seeing what it brings us. The past two years weren’t good at all with the drought down south and fewer acres planted. Right now, I’m estimating harvest will start around June 1. We have very good looking wheat to cut and lots of good wheat to cut down south in Oklahoma and Kansas, too.
I often get the question of what do you do when you’re not harvesting? I didn’t really ever take a break from working during the harvest off-season this year. I stayed super busy hauling grain five to six days per week. I’ve started as early as 4 a.m. and quit as late as 9 p.m. and had decent luck overall. I have had to wait in some long lines and deal with lots of moisture on the highways when it was foggy, snowing or raining. There were occasionally some trains sitting in the way, too. Typically, the days are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. though. I did get a few days off due to snow. We did have plenty of moisture this past winter and spring.
However, I always make time to attend the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. annual convention. This has always been a top priority of mine. My dad was one of the founders of the USCHI when it was started in 1983. My parents, LaVern and Carlene Schemper, were inducted into the USCHI Hall of Fame in 2018. In past years, the convention has been held in Nebraska, which was the best because it’s centrally located for harvesters from all over to attend! This year it was in Amarillo, Texas, and was well attended by members. I almost stayed home and kept on hauling grain but thought I should be there to support my family. My brother, JC Schemper, was the 2018 USCHI vice president. Now, he is the 2019 president. He was nominated and voted in so he has been putting a lot of his time into the USCHI organization. He has traveled to a few places supporting the USCHI including Washington, D.C., which he said was an opportunity of a lifetime.
On February 2 at the USCHI convention the Schemper family very much enjoyed the banquet. My niece Sierra Schemper was there and received two USCHI scholarships. It was very exciting and something she is proud of and my mom, Carlene Schemper, was surprised when she was called to the stage to accept an award for being the USCHI scholarship chairman for so many years. I happened to sell several raffle tickets at the convention and so I was asked to draw the winner of the raffle during the banquet and drew my brother’s name out of the full raffle shuffle. No, it was not rigged! JC won the prize and also became the USCHI president during the banquet. It was a great night in Amarillo, Texas!
Honestly, I just can’t wait to get on the road again! Nothing lasts forever and I’m so blessed to get to go on another harvest. Good luck to all the harvesters. It’s a tough business to be in and a dangerous one. Please be safe everyone!
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Janel Schemper can be reached at email@example.com.
Miss Moo loves truck rides too! This is how we spend our winter, aka harvest off-season. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Waiting in line to get loaded with corn. Photo by Janel Schemper.
It’s freezing cold outside and with the wind chill it is miserable. Photo by Janel Schemper.
My niece Samantha and I in Amarillo, Texas, at the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. banquet. She helped me sell raffle tickets at the banquet, too. Photo by Janel Schemper.
My dad’s truck on the left. Thankful for electric tarps on our trailers. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Following my dad on this trip. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Getting a load of milo. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Miss Moo is as sweet as pie. Photo by Janel Schemper.
A typical day of driving truck for Miss Moo and I. That was us today—January 14, 2019.
When the roads are wet, the truck and trailer gets messy but I try to wash the truck daily. This is the truck I almost always drive. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Getting a load of soybeans. Photo by Janel Schemper.
The corn pile is almost finished. Photo by Janel Schemper.
That was us today, January 17! Another foggy day. So, that means 90 days from now it’ll be raining, right? Photo by Janel Schemper.
Sierra’s scholarship smile! Congratulations on your U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. scholarships received in Amarillo, Texas! Photo by Janel Schemper.
My uncle, Lonny, waiting for a load of milo. Photo by Janel Schemper.
My uncle, Lonny, getting a load of milo. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Just getting started on this pile of corn in January. Photo by Janel Schemper.
That is how it is done. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Miss Moo loves playing in the snow and having a snow day at home! Photo by Janel Schemper.
Miss Moo loves playing in the snow and truly is one-of-a-kind in every way. Photo by Janel Schemper.
A Schemper family photo at the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. annual meeting banquet in Amarillo, Texas, on February 2, 2019. Sierra received two scholarships. Carlene received a scholarship chairman award. JC went from 2018 vice president to the 2019 USCHI president. The next convention will be in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Pictured from left to right Janel, Carlene, LaVern, Tricia, JC, Sunder, Sterling, Sage, Jared, Samantha, Dawn and Sierra.
I love having her here, there and everywhere with me! Miss Moo keeps me company while working the day away. Photo by Janel Schemper.
You can almost always find Miss Moo in the shade. Photo by Janel Schemper.
My newest wheels. I love the colors. Photo by Janel Schemper.
I love driving this truck. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Getting new combines ready for harvest. Photo by Janel Schemper.
My nephew, Sawyer, helping at the shop on a Saturday. Photo by Janel Schemper.
It was a hay kind of day for JC. Photo by Janel Schemper.
Miss Moo loves her driver. Here we were unloading soybeans on a Saturday morning May 4, 2019. Photo by Janel Schemper.
That face though. So sweet, Moo. Photo by Janel Schemper.
My niece Sierra graduated from high school and is going harvesting this year! Photo by Carlene Schemper.