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.

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

Minneola, Kansas—With Kansas in the rearview mirror, the crew has enjoyed a change in our routine over the last week. It was a scorcher loading up equipment.  With 110 degrees indicated by a local weather station, the wind seemed to be like a hair dryer blowing in your face. Humidity readings in the single digits are a far cry from the muggy and humid weather we had in Oklahoma. As the crew moves north, we won’t see these desert-like conditions again.  

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Cleaning machines is a hot, filthy job any time. With temperatures above 100 degrees it makes

Minneola, Kansas—Sometimes wheat harvesting can seem like a traffic jam ... just when you think you get to start you find yourself sitting still due to weather, spinning your wheels. This year will not be described as stop and go, but instead more like a race. Since we arrived in Oklahoma, it's been non-stop; and once we reached Kansas, we didn't let our foot off the gas. It's been "pedal to the metal" for over a week now, and there are no signs of it letting up till we see the checkered flag fall as we cross

Minneola, Kansas—The red clay dirt of Oklahoma slowly fades into brown sandy soil as the crew makes its way north into Kansas. Trees and terraces are replaced by flat fields and wind turbines. The scenery has changed, but the job stays the same. We arrive in Minneola, Kansas, and immediately start harvesting. The green wheat we thought would give us a few days off has ripened quickly in the hot dry weather. We unload equipment and get right to work.

UntitledWe arrive in southwest Kansas and get right to work. The farmer's provided grain cart boosts our productivity and

Thomas, Oklahoma—No two years are ever alike, and that couldn't be more the case than with this year's Oklahoma harvest. Last year brought some of the most challenging harvest conditions we have ever seen in Thomas when heavy rains turned fields into swamps. The wheat was laid over flat on the ground, and it seemed like harvest here would never end. This year, however, was something completely different.

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After we arrive, it's clear harvest is ready to begin. We work well after dark unloading equipment and installing the dual tires so we can be ready to harvest

Clothes are piled on the bed and hangers lay all over the floor. The dryer just buzzed that the final load is ready to come out. The dishwasher just finished the last few dirty dishes. The refrigerator is unplugged, and a pile of nearly-empty condiment bottles are piled in the trash. Oh, yeah … I gotta take out the trash yet! Where is my checklist list at? Did I pack the toothpaste?

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David, Cameron, Titus and Ezra finish loading and packing before leaving Minnesota. It's a long drive to Oklahoma, and it always seems road construction makes an

"The more things change, the more things stay the same." This ancient proverb has never seemed more applicable than over the past few months. As the 2020 wheat harvest season kicks off here in the Midwest, it's hard to not have COVID-19 vividly on our minds. This pandemic has caused us all to rethink our every day lives, but some things really never do change ... like the need for harvesting grain to feed our nation and the world.  But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's start with a quick introduction.

I am Brian G