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Laura: Cheers to a new year!

Once upon a time, there was an elementary aged girl who enjoyed mowing her parents’ blue grass yard on their John Deere lawn tractor. She had lots of dreams about what she might be or do when she grew up, but never once did she think about being a custom harvester. In fact, she did not even know what one was.

Well, I never imagined this would be a public photo but here I am sporting my mid-nineties oversized t-shirt and some cool pre-teen awkward stage glasses. Little did I know I would be trading this lawn tractor for a larger one a few decades later! (Courtesy photo.)

About two and a half hours to the south was a farm boy, whom she would meet some thirteen years later, who loved nothing more than harvest. He left on the run when in his early teens and it might seem like the rest was history, but the story doesn’t end there …

Unfortunately, we couldn’t surface a matching photo of Ryan with glasses and all his pre-teen glory, but we did find this one of him servicing a combine in the mid to late nineties. So much has changed since this was taken except his passion for harvest. (Courtesy photo.)

Hi, my name is Laura Haffner and I co-own High Plains Harvesting with my husband Ryan. Last summer, we celebrated our ten-year wedding anniversary and this summer we will embark our tenth season as owners of our custom harvesting business. Those are two big milestones in our story. There are some days it feels like that time passed in a blink of an eye. Others feel like we have lived a lifetime in those ten years with the lessons learned, babies added, people met, miles traveled, zigs, zags, memories made and a bucket full of adventures.

We snuck away for a quick anniversary lunch with the kids in Billings last summer before returning to the field. How did harvesters pull off a summer wedding years ago? Well, it’s because these harvesters didn’t own a crew then but based it around the busy in on the farm. Life is full of surprises and now many of those milestones are spent in the field.

While this is our tenth summer in business, Ryan is flirting with nearly 30 years of harvest experience. He started operating combine for his uncle at the age of eleven. That fueled his desire to go on the run and Ryan hit the road with a crew, for the first time, when he was fourteen years old. He continued the trend during school years until after college when he traded a cab for a spot on the MacDon harvest support team, both domestically and abroad. Even after he joined Great Plains MFG, a tillage and planting manufacturer, he still took “vacation time” to harvest prior to owning the crew.

Holy smokes! Look at those baby faces. This was the summer of 2008 and Ryan was taking vacation days to help with harvest back in northwest Kansas. Also, that string around his neck is a mask for the wheat dust. Unless he’s blowing machines off, you won’t see him with one in the cab today. Asthma medication and modern medicine has come a long way and its amazing the freedom it gives a person to do what they love. 

My hands-on, harvest run background is much shorter. OK, it is virtually non-existent except for a few times assisting with harvest in the field or working summers at the elevator. For a season, I had an awesome time working on a crew for Croplan where we traveled a three state territory planting and servicing Answer Plots. While that was a good start, nothing could have prepared me fully for life of the road with a crew while raising two mini-harvesters. Thankfully for all of us, in the game of life, one does not have to be an expert before one tries new things. I have learned this business through a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears.  I will never feel like I have “arrived,” though, because the industry is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn and navigate.

Not exactly harvest, but this was one of my responsibilities on the planting crew. Must have been a cold day with the way I’m bundled up. Looks a little cozier up there in the cab. (Courtesy photo.)

Raising mini-harvesters on the run has been an adventure in and of itself, in addition to that of the actual harvest. Here is a picture from a few years ago when we fit in the cab of a combine a little easier than we will this season. We were all in the tractor cab together for planting this past weekend and the nicest word I can use to describe that experience was “cozy.”  

We plan to head south to Texas in a couple weeks with a crew that is comprised of familiar and new faces. We look forward to seeing and serving our faithful customers along the trail that includes states from Texas, through Kansas to just shy of the Canadian border. Like most, whether in agriculture or not, times remain a little uncertain. There are still issues surrounding the pandemic, market fluctuations, rising fuel costs and weather challenges, which at the moment, specifically include drought and hail. However, despite the unknowns, we and many like us, will lay it all on the line to harvest the grain that feeds us all. I look forward to sharing those stories with you.

This photo is from spring 2020, but I suspect a similar scene will play out in the coming days. “So longs” are a strange combination of sadness and excitement. 

Texas harvest is just around the corner. We drove through just a couple days ago and the wheat was still John Deere Green. It’s hard to believe this will be the scene soon, God willing.

Laura can be reached at laura@allaboardharvest.com.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Case IH, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., BASF, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Gleaner, ITC, Westbred, Huskie, Western Equipment, US Custom Harvesters, and High Plains Journal.


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