Brian: For better or worse

Greenfield, Iowa—The past week has been a blur, filled with finishing our last field in South Dakota, cleaning and loading machines, and then making that arduous drive with all the equipment back to Minnesota and Iowa. True to the theme of the 2023 harvest, we had difficulties right to the final fields. Reminiscent to last year, we found ergot in the final fields and the elevator rejected our loads because of these toxic fungal spores mixed in with the wheat. Eventually the farmer found grain bin storage for these bushels and likely will have the wheat cleaned in the future (which successfully removes the fungus). It created some extra hassle, but with the last bushel in the grain bin the crew switched gears to cleaning and loading.

The final week of harvest includes the final meal in the field, the final pass of the season, and the final load of grain delivered.

Cameron and David had to make two trips between South Dakota and Minnesota since Brenda was already at home in Iowa with the boys preparing for school. Glen, Vernelle and myself stayed an extra day so we could pay local bills, settling with farmers, and then unexpectedly make a repair to a broken brake shoe on the grain trailer we found while inspecting everything before the long two day drive. Spending more than a full month in the Onida trailer court, we were the last RV to leave. We arrived without incident and have now successfully taken up residences here on the surface of the sun. All joking aside, we returned to some of the hottest weather we remember ever having in Iowa, experiencing a string of days back-to-back with heat index up to 120 degrees. The humidity has been stifling, so we have avoided a lot of work outside but will soon have to be ready for hay making and then chopping silage for our winter cattle feed. It’s been nice to have a few days to settle back into life that isn’t contained inside a rectangular metal box on wheels, and it gave me time to consider how I might wrap up or summarize the summer as my weekly blogging comes to an end for the summer.

We were the last harvester to pull out of the trailer court, and not even an unexpected repair (or a 120 degree heat index) could keep up from successfully moving all the equipment home for the season.

Custom cutters are married to their work. They eat, sleep and breathe all things harvest related 365 days a year. The commitment they make is almost like a wedding vow, pledging “for better or worse, until death do us part.” Some years test that promise, and wheat harvest 2023 will always be remembered as such.

Every week brought about a new challenge that tested our resilience. It wasn’t always easy to find the silver lining in the rain clouds that created muddy fields and horrendous weeds. We spent far too much time cooped up in the trailers waiting for cooperative weather, and frequently the joy of this job was threatened by tough conditions and difficult decisions. While unprecedented rains plagued the southern states, sever drought brought a new set of challenges up north. Lost acres, low yields and poor quality continued our loosing streak all the way to the very last field. Rarely have we ever seen so many states suffer so many challenges simultaneously in one season.

Yet somehow we survived, and maybe that’s the biggest lesson taught by this summer. My mother wisely reminded me that if we never had a bad year how would we learn to appreciate the good? It’s up to us to choose to see hardships as either tragedy or triumph, and reevaluating our summer through that lens revealed plenty of victories and valuable life lessons learned together as a crew.

I wish my weekly updates could have been a little more uplifting to read over the past months, but I hope the key take away was the crew spent our time conquering instead of complaining. Those of us in agriculture set ourselves apart by never quitting, never giving up hope that tomorrow will be better. Running a harvest crew isn’t always fun, but it also never stops being fulfilling. Even the most challenging day can be turned around by a golden sunset slipping behind a wonderland of wheat. Just like a marriage, our connection to the the land and our love of the harvest is a match made in heaven … for better or worse, until death do us part.

Wearing our All Aboard Harvest shirts, the crew would like to thank the readers and sponsors that help make sharing our summer story of harvest possible.
Instead of golden wheat fields, now the golden sunsets slip behind the silhouettes of our cattle in Iowa.
Our 2-day drive back included a hotel stay over night, avoiding the 100 degree-plus temps inside the trailer house.
The crew is all smiles to be home as well pull into the driveway and breathe a sigh of relief.
The sunsets of South Dakota are something one never tires of.
David and Glen put the header on the trailer as we make our 38-mile move to our final field.
Pink and blue pastels color the sky above the horizon of golden wheat.
Not feeling the need to organize, we randomly pile in miscellaneous things into the back of the truck for the long drive home.
Glen tightens the lugnuts one final time as we remove and load the duals for the trip home.
While fields are carefully checked for rocks by farmers, Brian manages to find one that’s easy to spot.
David harvests one of the best spring wheat fields we’ve seen at just over 50 bushels per acre.
Glen works to clean the machine before loading onto the trailers for the final move of the year.

Brian Jones can be reached at

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