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.

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

Onida, South Dakota - I feel I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. Since we have arrived here, harvest has been plagued by cool weather and wet conditions not seen for decades. As we cross the one-month mark since our arrival, no one could have anticipated so few acres would be harvested up to this point. I wish I had better news to share, maybe something a little more cheery to talk about. That's not the case this time, and I guess there is no reason to sugar-coat our mood. Farmers and harvesters alike are feeling

Onida, South Dakota—Rain. Wind. Hail. I probably shouldn't be using four-letter words, but it's just unavoidable at this point. The last time we got together I brought you video live from the field as a significant storm was approaching. How did it all play out? Not very good, I'm afraid.

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Angry skies made it clear we were not going to dodge this storm.  Little did we know just how severe this one would become, packing hail and high winds. Rain drops started to fall just as we brought in the machines.

We expected to have some

Onida, South Dakota—When we come to South Dakota we are always prepared to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  Serious work.  Mile-long fields, big yields, long hauls, late nights and early mornings ... this is harvesting on a grand scale, and it can be exhausting.  So the fact that we have been here for two weeks and haven't put in a full day of work yet is unexpected and a little disappointing.

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The wide open spaces of South Dakota provide views unlike any other.  Golden wheat stands in contrast to the green prairie grasses and blue skies

Big Springs, Nebraska—Sometimes we spend quite a few days (or weeks) in one place harvesting, and other times you move through a stop so quickly it seems it's time to pack up the trailer houses again before you even got re-situated from the last move.  This describes Nebraska for us this year.

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The crew arrives in Big Springs, Nebraska, and sets ups camp right before a rain storm threatens to delay the start of harvest.  This would not be the only time rain brought a full-stop to harvest during our short stay in Nebraska.   

For quite

Minneola, Kansas—It's been a whirlwind of activity, the crew running hard day after day with the hot and dry weather here in southwest Kansas.  Harvest can be hard work and long hours, but then that's not really a surprise ... it's the nature of this lifestyle.  Crews all around Kansas have capitalized on this break in the weather, making for one of the fastest and biggest harvest pushes Kansans may have seen in quite some time.

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The crop has been exceptional in the area this year, with some fields achieving the highest yields ever seen.  Farmers were grateful for (mostly