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Brian: Finding our focus

Thomas, OK – The crew has spent the last week packing and preparing for harvest, but this year it’s been hard to focus. Three days after the EF4 tornado devastated our hometown of Greenfield, Iowa another round of severe weather produced a derecho that pummeled the area. Downed trees and power lines meant we had to divert some packing time to cleaning up around the farm. Time that I should have spent washing equipment was eaten up by phone calls settling the insurance claim on Vernelle’s totaled car. Glen and Cameron spent time helping their churches coordinate relief efforts and set up alternative housing options for friends that lost their homes in the tornado, and the Hamer family volunteered for debris pickup in Greenfield for a few days.

The Hamer family takes time out from packing to help clean up tornado debris in Greenfield.
Damaged beyond repair by flying debris and rain, Vernelle’s beloved Volvo is hauled away for salvage.
A derecho sweeps across the farm damaging trees and power lines. We are suffering storm fatigue.

It’s been a week of feel sadness for our friends and community suffering such significant loss, but it’s also been a reminder to always focus on what matters most. The medical clinic set up temporary operations inside the school classrooms since the hospital building was severely damaged by the tornado. This meant school unceremoniously came to an abrupt end for the year, leaving the Hammer boys free to help pickup up storm damage around the farm and carry boxes as we transition into trailer houses. From power washing equipment to helping vaccinate cattle being turned out to pasture, the boys were incredibly helpful in making the most of our limited packing time.

And just like that…. school is over for Titus, Ezra, Judah and Canaan. The school currently is a makeshift medical clinic after the hospital received severe damage.
Moving out nearly 250 cows to pasture is a big task, with vaccinations mimicking a wrestling match.
Brenda perhaps faces the biggest packing challenge of all…6 people’s belongings and lives for three months, all crammed into a minivan.

Leaving home may be the most stressful event of the entire year, sometimes seeming nearly impossible to pull off. Usually, my belongings end up piled into boxes haphazardly stacked in my room. Clearly, I could take some logistical cues from Vernelle and Brenda, their well laid out lists and labeled boxes bringing some sense of organized chaos lacking in my packing approach. Moving your life into an RV to travel the Midwest for three months may sound like an exciting vacation, but in practice it’s much less glamorous. Usually, we’re only a few miles down the road before we start to realize what we forgot to bring along, even with all those lists. This year we can blame it on our lack of focus.

Our trip to Oklahoma was uneventful, and that’s just the way we like it. Road construction was particularly troublesome this year, our oversized loads limiting our route selection. This year seemed like an endless series of turns and backtracking but hats off to our fearless leader Glen keeping us on our convoluted route this year without a single missed turn. We spent two overnights roadside, enjoying unusually comfortable temperatures for sleeping without air conditioning. But Oklahoma greeted us with sunny skies and our first taste of 90 degree temps this year, a sure sign that harvest is right around the corner.

All lined up, the crew’s 6 units pull over on the side of the road for a quick stop.
The crew makes one final, sad drive through Greenfield’s tornado damage as we head to Oklahoma.
Nestled amongst other oversized loads, the crew spends the first overnight at a truck stop.

With a few pieces of new equipment this year, it took a little extra time to get the machiens off the trailer and on the ground, ready for the field. A rain shower gave the crew one day off to settle in and rest up, but it looks like we will be in the fields tomorrow to officially kick off our Oklahoma harvest season. The wheat looks quite good in this area, a drastic difference from last year’s poor, weedy crop that proved such a challenge to harvest in the mud. It’s been a week of distractions, but everything is finally coming into focus.

David’s (nearly) new combine is an exciting upgrade, minus the extra work needed to install duals.
Canaan decides a big travel day is best spent riding shotgun with Grandpa in his new Volvo semi.
Our first glimpse of the wheat crop here is encouraging, especially compared to last year’s poor yields.

Brian Jones can be reached at brian@allaboardharvest.com

Thank you to our 2024 All Aboard Wheat Harvest sponsors: High Plains Journal, Lumivia by Corteva Agriscience, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., Merit Auctions, Kramer Seed FarmsShelbourne Reynolds, and U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc.


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