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Janel Schemper – Schemper Harvesting

Janel Schemper


My name is Janel Schemper.  I am a third generation custom harvester from Holdrege, Nebraska.  I’ve been going on harvest my entire life.  I am a combine operator and truck driver too.  Our harvest run has always started in the month of May in the Frederick, Oklahoma area.  We’ll journey up the central Midwest states, harvesting wheat fields in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota during the summer months.  We’ll also harvest chickpeas, lentils and canola in the northern states on our harvest run.  Our fall harvest takes place in both Kansas and Nebraska where we harvest corn and soybeans.

The 1950s was the start of my family business known as “Schemper Harvesting.”  My grandpa, Jerry Schemper, experienced several drought years on the farm in northern Kansas and so that is when he went out on the road and made himself a living in the custom harvesting business.  Please check out www.SchemperHarvesting.com for more details.

I joined my family harvest crew (mom and dad and three older siblings, Julie, JC and Jared) and started harvesting at just 5 months old.  I can remember my dad, LaVern Schemper, running Gleaner combines in the 80s and then he switched to Case combines for a very short time and then in 1990 he became a John Deere customer.  I got to grow up running John Deere combines.   The combine cab was where I spent my time with my dad or siblings riding along with them and is when I learned all about operating a combine and running a business.  Otherwise, my time was spent riding with my mom in a truck hauling many loads of grain to the elevators or grain storage sites.  When we would move from location to location and traveled across the Great Plains states of America following the wheat belt I would ride with my dad in a truck hauling a combine and I always just felt better riding along with him.  He had a way of being organized and professional and always made me proud and I was happy just being included in the business and working alongside him.  At the time, I never thought I’d one day be the one to take the lead and be driving a truck and hauling a combine down the road.  I have always enjoyed getting to be a part of the harvest crew!  Some things just never change! ☺

By the time I was thirteen years old, I was operating a combine full-time during the summer months.  That was 25+ years ago.  After I finished my school years, I continued harvesting and our harvests typically last six to seven months each year.  The years have gone by far too quickly.  As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get out of school for the summer and go harvesting.  I just always looked forward to the harvest.  As soon as I weighed enough to keep the combine header going due to a micro switch in the combine seat, I was in the driver’s seat.  However, the combine header would occasionally shut off during my teenage years due to my “light weight.”  I would sometimes have to sit a coffee can full of nuts and bolts on my combine seat arm rest to add the necessary weight to keep it going and I made it work just fine.

Going on harvest has kept me super busy.  Harvest for me is definitely the best way to grow up!  I would not have had it any other way.  I will always be in love with all of those amber waves of grain!  It is always quite the sight!  For the rest of my life, harvest time will always hold a special place in my heart.  To my family it is not so much a job; it has become a tradition and a way of life that is now into the fourth generation.  I will continue to support our family harvesting business in the growing generations. 

The work ethic I have gained through each harvest season has been a great learning experience and I continue to learn and polish my skills every single day.  I was taught early on that it takes “a lot” of work and a can-do attitude to be a harvester.  Typically, the days in the field can be twelve to eighteen hours long and is what it often takes to get the job done.  I learned responsibility at a young age.  My dad taught me all about that.  I learned to accept and do what was expected of me and to not ever complain about work but be glad for the opportunity and the ability to work.  I have also learned about patience through the custom harvesting business.  It sometimes seems that we are in the “hurry up and wait” business.  We may push hard to get to our next job or field and get started cutting only to find that the crop is not ready yet or it’s happened before where a rain shower beat us to it.  Sitting and waiting for grain to dry is sometimes what we have to do.  Heat and wind are often what it takes to get the appropriate harvesting conditions that we need to make progress.  The weather plays a huge role in our day to day work and can be quite the challenge. 

When people ask me questions like don’t you miss being home or how can you stand to be away from home for so long I always think of our military.  Our military service men and women sacrifice their life for our country.  They leave home and fight for our country.  What I do for a living is possible because of their sacrifice.  My dad is a veteran and it’s just been instilled in me to think about the bigger picture.  The United States of America is the land of the free because of the brave.  Have that for a mindset while harvesting (away from home) and you’ll do just fine.

I’ve gained a lot by being able to experience the “American Harvest” year after year.  I’ve always felt fortunate that I have a family to get to go to harvest with.  It is a unique occupation no doubt about it and it is not for the faint of heart.  It takes an exceptional work ethic, excellent work habits, honesty, responsibility, a grown up attitude and serious business professionalism and dedication to fulfill a harvest season year after year (typically May through November).  The future of agriculture will always be interesting in my opinion.  I want to be a part of it forever.  I’d like to dedicate my All Aboard Wheat Harvest blog posts to those who know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to appreciating the amber waves of grain and this beautiful country and lifestyle.  Thank you to all that have contributed to the success of my family business, Schemper Harvesting from Holdrege, Nebraska.  We are grateful for the employees and the customers.  

I joined the All Aboard Wheat Harvest in 2017 and have appreciated the opportunity to get to share my harvest story with the readers.  It’s been amazing to hear the feedback from those that subscribe to the High Plains Journal.  I grew up reading the magazine and am very proud of it.  I am a U.S. Custom Harvester and an ag journalist during harvest.  During the harvest off-season, I haul grain locally and hire the crew for Schemper Harvesting.  I am also an insurance agent and write home, auto, life, farm, crop and business insurance policies.  I am also a Third Party CDL Tester. 


Southern Kansas — It's not always another day in paradise or living the dream out here on harvest. There are a whole lot of harvest pains that come with this career and lifestyle. Road construction is one nerve-racking problem, especially when the cones are placed too narrowly in my lane when I am hauling a combine. There is a one-lane bridge in Medicine Lodge, and I knocked over every cone. Some things just can't be helped.

Breakdowns stress me out. I had the John Deere Harvest Support in my field three days in a row. Thank goodness they are here to

Northern Oklahoma — I love cutting wheat and staying super busy on harvest. Honestly, I feel like I can't ever get enough combine time. I love it! I always have. I've been running combine full-time since age 13.

We moved north on June 6, unloaded and went straight to the field. I absolutely love that, too! We've been cutting continuously. The wheat has been yielding 35 to 50 bushels per acre in this area. The test weights have been 61 to 62 pounds per bushel.

We'll finish here in the next day or so, and we're needed up the road as soon

Southwest Oklahoma - I enjoy following the wheat harvest. Wheat ripens forty miles northward per day. It's now June 3rd and we are getting closer to finishing in this area. We've had some rain which has slowed us up. I'm ready to finish and move north!

The wheat in this area has averaged around fifty bushels per acre. The test weights have been anywhere from 58 to 64 pounds per bushel. Overall, it's been a very nice wheat crop to cut.

One thing that is upsetting on harvest is having to purchase def (diesel exhaust fluid). I wish there was no

Southwest Oklahoma — It's now May 27. We've been on harvest for a week. It feels great to be back in the field. We've been seeing good yields and high test weights. The best wheat so far has been averaging 50 to 65 bushels per acre. The test weights have been 63 to 64 pounds per bushel. Rain makes grain, and clearly this area had decent moisture and at the right times during the growing season. It's nice to see such a great wheat crop!

We have nine combines here and a lot of wheat to cut. However, the chances of

Holdrege, Nebraska — Today is May 17, and I am looking forward to going south for wheat harvest very soon. The 30 days leading up to leaving for wheat harvest are the hardest. There is so much preparation and shop work to be done to get ready to go. I cannot wait to finally get to the wheat field and run the combine. That will be a good feeling to get started.

I made the first trip south last week. I hauled a combine and header. The wheat does not look too good in the southern half of Kansas. That's been

Holdrege, Nebraska—It's another kind of busy at this time of year. Winding down from harvest is quite the change. Moving out of the camper, getting it winterized and then moving back into the house is a lot of work.

Central Nebraska—We are staying busy harvesting corn. We have had several days of sunshine and clear blue skies and finally today we are harvesting dry loads testing under 17%. I was beginning to think the corn wasn't going to dry down. The irrigated corn is high yielding with test weights of 58 to 62 pounds per bushel.

Our forecast continues to be clear with highs in the 60s. Nice weather makes corn harvest enjoyable. We have three combines here picking corn, one combine east of here picking corn and two combines cutting milo in western Kansas. It's been a busy