All Aboard Harvest | Brian Jones – Jones Harvesting
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Brian Jones – Jones Harvesting

Brian Jones – Jones Harvesting

For 35 years, Jones Harvesting, based near Greenfield, Iowa, has made an annual trek from Oklahoma to North Dakota, harvesting golden fields of wheat for farmers who have become like family to the Jones family.

Brian Jones is a second generation custom harvester, having joined his parents, Glen and Vernelle Jones, his sister Brenda Hamer, her husband Cameron and their four young boys; and his uncle, David Rahn on the crew.

“I enjoy the traveling a lot,” said Brian, who said every place is different, as is every year. One thing remains constant, and that is the families for whom the Jones bring in the crop. “We have a couple of farmers we’ve worked for for 34 years,” he said.

The harvest run is like visiting family members, he added. They attend church, shop the aisles in the local grocery stores, and eat at the same restaurants each year. The Jones family has spent enough time in these communities that they feel like they belong there.

“If you add up the time we’ve spent in those individual stops, it seems like years that we’ve been there,” he said.

The Jones crew makes stops in Thomas, Oklahoma; Minneola and Sublette, Kansas; Big Springs, Nebraska; Onida, South Dakota and Strasburg, North Dakota. Strasburg, Brian points out, is the birthplace of Lawrence Welk. The crew harvests wheat on acreage that traces back to the band leader, he added.

The Joneses run a John Deere and Case combine, plus supporting equipment.

When not harvesting, the Joneses operate a 4th generation farm in Adair County, Iowa, where they raise corn, soybeans and have a cowherd. Brian is active in the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Near Dodge City, Kansas–Have you ever been in a shootout? You know, like in a gun fight on one of those old Western TV movies? The crew has arrived here just south of Dodge City, Kansas. Of course this area is known for its Wild West history, made famous by outlaws that challenged John Wayne to a duel on Hollywood’s silver screen. It seems we’ve been facing off against some Wild West weather almost every day since we arrived in Kansas. The move from Oklahoma to Minneola, Kansas, is hot and windy, the type of weather southwest Kansas is famous

Thomas, Oklahoma–If you measure success by the number of consecutive days you harvest, the crew is totally winning in Oklahoma. We are having ideal weather here in Thomas, the wind and sun are pushing temperatures into the upper 90s and even into the 100s. Sometimes green wheat and rain are a constant headache, but not this harvest so far. This year we may have won that war, but the crew is starting to battle fatigue. We have harvested all but one of the 12 days since we arrived. An unexpected cold front developed a fast-moving storm that brought three

Thomas, Oklahoma–Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living. Boy, you can say that again. While that famous song might describe some people's work schedule, it certainly isn't the schedule of a custom harvester. The crew went to the field the very next day after arriving in Oklahoma, and we haven't had a moment of down time since. Working 9 to 5 has been a fantasy here in Thomas, and the crew's 14-plus hour work days have translated into a 100-hour work week.
 

The crew is tired. I won't

Thomas, Oklahoma–I’m taking one final walk through the house, making sure I haven’t forgotten something. The refrigerator is unplugged. The hot water heater is turned off. The blinds are closed. I’m holding the last box of clothes to transfer to the trailer house closet. I shut the door, locking it behind me. I wonder if I remembered to bring ... Never mind, it’s too late and doesn’t matter. At the end of the driveway I glance over a shoulder for one final look at the farm. I'm saying goodbye to one lifestyle and assuming another. Don't panic, I'm

Greenfield, Iowa—We may be counting down to the final day at home, but the stress level seems to be going up. Without question, the worst part of wheat harvest is the “getting ready to leave” part. You never know which one of the bazillion things you have to do should be completed first, and once you finally pick a task it only takes a few minutes to realize you should be doing something else.  

 

It ends up a juggling act of sorts, often with too many balls in the air at once. School is winding down with last

Greenfield, Iowa—"Nature gives to every time and season unique beauty; from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it’s just a succession of changes so soft and comfortable that we hardly notice the progress."—Charles Dickens

 

How I’ve already turned the calendar to May is a mystery. It seems not long ago I was putting away equipment for winter, attending socially distanced holiday gatherings and dreaming of a warm island getaway. Nevertheless, spring has sprung here on the farm, bringing with it the work of a new growing season.  



Long days and nights in

Greenfield, Iowa—Today I'm sipping coffee, looking out my window at the cows grazing in the pasture. I see corn and soybean fields in the distance, their color shifting from green to yellow and brown hues. A few leaves are starting to fall from the trees, and I hear a load of laundry tumbling in the dryer behind me. Fall is approaching, and wheat harvest has come full circle. After 77 days on the road we find ourselves back home.

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After over 2.5 months we are back at the beginning where it all started. It's a different feeling

Onida, South Dakota—The crew has been working for almost a month now Sully County, and fatigue is starting to set in. To be honest, no one is really complaining. South Dakota always is our biggest stop of the year, and a little hard work never killed anyone. When you stay long enough to see the sunflowers bloom you know it's time to wrap things up here.

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Amber waves of grain may be beautiful, but a sunflower field doesn't look too shabby either. South Dakota sunflowers just seem to make you smile.

 

The spring wheat has been excellent

Onida, South Dakota—They say everything is bigger in Texas. Maybe that's true. But when it comes to the sheer scale of harvest, nothing seems to compare to South Dakota. Every aspect of the harvest is supersized here. Bigger than Texas? Well, I'll let you be the judge of that. Lets just say they both are really big and leave it at that.

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The wide open spaces of South Dakota can seem endless some times. Wheat meets sky, the uninterrupted horizon stretching endlessly in every direction.


Even the wait to begin harvest this year was supersized. The crew sat

Onida, South Dakota—It has been a long, two-day affair, but the crew’s move to South Dakota is finally over. Time to relax, right? Wrong. Sully County welcomes us with a fierce storm forming in the west.  A storm watch is in effect, and we have been frequently checking the radar on our phones. It’s time to get the trailer houses set up and eat our evening meal before the rain drops start to fall. The combines unload at a farm site just north of town. After supper, we rush to get the equipment situated before things turn muddy