Laura: Some heroes wear plier holders

Western Kansas: Little Man and Lady A were so excited to see their dad when we pulled into the field that Friday. It had been exactly 5 weeks and 6 days since they had seen him which is a new record. Nothing takes the place of dad, but I’m also grateful for the positive male role models on the crew, our family and community that had a kind word for the children or showed them a little extra attention during those days he was gone. There’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into this business for all involved parties.

Ryan and the crew’s return marks the completion of 2020 wheat run. Two weeks ago, the Montana crew safely returned from the north country in one piece. I can’t stress how thankful I am because when there are so many wheels on the ground and so many miles to travel, there is always risk. They immediately joined the crew that had already started fall harvest in western Kansas.

The same day we were reunited, one of our crew members had left for pre-scheduled time off for a wedding, so the littles and I helped fill in by running a combine. This started a trend where I have been making the several hour commute back and forth on my off days to help where needed. Usually the kids and I stick closer to home during the fall season due to our school responsibilities, but after all, it is 2020 and we’re constantly adjusting to the ever changing conditions thrown our way and filling in holes where needed. It takes everyone working together to make this happen on any year, but especially this one. Even Little Man is on an adventure and temporally attending school out west where we are staying.

Speaking of working together, the theme for AAWH this year was “we’re all in this together” and that seemed to hold true on our crew as well. We may have had one of the most diverse groups in terms of backgrounds, experience levels, language, skill sets, etc., this season. A lot of learning and patience had to come together to make it flow and that’s what they have done. They came together to make it work. And like any group, it didn’t happen without some victories and frustrations. But through it all, and perhaps most importantly, attitudes have remained upbeat and positive. That’s something you can’t really train for. A good attitude is not always easy to come by these days. Attitude can make or break a team. When a crew makes an effort to get a long, find joy in the ride, and take the bumps as they come, everyone benefits.

I really can’t say enough about how proud I am of this group of guys. That doesn’t take away from my past teams, but merely recognizing that 2020 brought an extra element of risk, change and uncertainty into equation. There are so many unsung heroes for this pandemic and I could probably make a list several feet long if I attempted to write them all down. Today I want to focus on our crew and the many others in agriculture making sure we have the raw ingredients that allow us the food, materials and energy that are essential for survival. Yes, in my mind, some of my favorite heroes wear plier holders on their hips and have risked themselves to bring the harvest in. Most are the hardworking, silent type that would rather die before being placed in the spotlight for recognition. They view it as the right thing to do—after all, it’s just what they do. However, I think they deserve to be recognized so I will express my gratitude publicly for them today.

Even though the adventure of the wheat run is behind us for another year, there is still plenty of work to be done in terms of harvest. The last few weeks have been focused on corn, but we have also harvested pinto beans, and milo is just around the corner. We typically run until Thanksgiving or early December, but the weather is holding and we haven’t missed a day since the fall run began several weeks ago. Acres are going down quickly with these conditions, so it will be interesting to see if it continues at this pace. Yields have been all over the board here. According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s drought monitor, this region is a D2 or 3 level drought which indicates severe to extreme drought conditions, respectively. Although rain means we won’t be as productive, I’m not sure anyone would turn down precipitation right now.

When harvest is over, it appears that everyone will return to their respective homes either here or abroad. Until recently, this has been in question. South Africa just lifted their travel restrictions, so at the moment it looks those members of the crew will be returning back like everyone else. Of course, this is subject to change depending on how the pandemic progresses into the winter months. We’ve never had issues getting the team home before so this is uncharted waters for everyone.

Goodbyes are always hard. I’m not normally one who cries much, but I’ve cried when crew has left this year, and I’ll cry again before the last of them leave. They become intertwined in our lives due to the nature of this business and there can be a hole when they leave. We’ve had some wonderful people on our team over the years.

It’s also time to say so long to the All Aboard Wheat Harvest family. What a privilege it has been sharing our journey with you again this year. It seems like yesterday I was writing about the uncertainty of the 2020 wheat season and now its in the rearview mirror. In fact, I question how quickly these six years have passed as a correspondent. It has been a time of intense growth, learning and adventure. As a youngster, I used to flip through the High Plains Journal never dreaming I would one day have an opportunity to write for the publication and represent agriculture in this way. I have met some incredible people as a result of this experience and appreciate those of you who have written in or have come up to visit at various agriculture events. 

This season has ended, but we will still be posting updates on our social media channels. You can find us at High Plains Harvesting on both Facebook and Instagram. I also write about rural life from time to time on my own blog at Under the Flyover Sky which also has social media channels under the same name on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks again for allowing my family and team into your homes the last six years. It has been an incredible journey. God bless and may you stay safe and healthy in the challenging times.

HPH 2020 Photo by: Laura Haffner
A full moon rises over the corn fields of western Kansas.

Laura Haffner - HPH 2020
The view from the roof of my machine.

Laura Haffner - HPH 2020
The western Kansas skies have been incredible this fall.

High Plains Harvesting
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he’ll fit back there much longer!

High Plains Harvesting 2020
I’m having to find some creative ways to keep the kids entertained this fall since I’ve been in a machine a little more. We’ve found a dry erase marker to be a hit on the windows. Here, Pedro and Lady A are playing back and forth. He would make a motion with his hand in the air, and then she would draw the corresponding scribbles on her window.

High Plains Harvesting 2020
I had to make sure my machine was game day ready last Saturday! What a game for Kansas State University versus University of Oklahoma! There was definitely some yelling going on in my cab!

High Plains Harvesting 2020
Games are good to have on hand if we have a few minutes of down time in the cab.

2020 High Plains Harvesting
Pinto beans in their natural habitat.

High Plains Harvesting 2020
Pintos going into the truck.

High Plains Harvesting 2020
The 2020 wheat crew. A few more members joined the team after this was taken in Montana. What a great group of people!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Agri-Pro, Gleaner, BASF, and High Plains Journal. Laura can be reached at


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