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Laura Haffner – High Plains Harvesting

For Laura Haffner, there is not a better way to see the Great Plains.She and her husband, Ryan, have High Plains Harvesting based in Park, Kansas. The couple, along with their two young children and a crew of about a dozen, travel from Texas to the Canadian border to harvest wheat, canola and peas.

They return to Kansas at the end of summer to harvest corn, soybeans and grain sorghum. They family runs five late John Deere-model combines, along with their other supporting equipment.

Ryan’s harvesting experience started as a young child with his family. He was hooked and continued harvesting summers throughout his teens and early twenties with a local crew. He later took over that business, which has become High Plains Harvesting. This season will mark their seventh as owners.

This is Laura’s fourth year writing for All Aboard Wheat Harvest.
“I enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people,” Laura said. “I like to see harvest through my children’s eyes. They think it is a grand vacation because we make it that way for them.” Whether it is trips to the field or finding the interesting things that make a harvest stop unique, there is no shortage of things to do.

“As a result of our opportunity to extensively travel the Great Plains, I can tell the children are already expanding their worldview, love for travel, learning and adventure.”

If the 2022 harvest season was a Broadway drama musical, the weather would be the lead role and the rest of us would merely be the supporting cast. This year was marked with widespread drought across much of the wheat growing states with a bit of freeze, hail, and a few bright spots sprinkled on top for good measure. Normally, we would expect one, maybe two stops to be in question but the weather continues to have us on our toes a little more each season.

The southern part of the run saw the biggest impact from the drought with the

Northwest of Great Falls, along the Canadian border—It is Aug. 22, and rain chances start tonight and are in the forecast through the weekend. As much as one hates to see rain interrupt harvest, the area needs the moisture. Our crew could really use a rain break to catch up on sleep, life, and have some much deserved rest and relaxation. Normally we have these types of weather events scattered throughout the run, but with the extreme drought those storms and natural break makers haven't been as common. Our crew has really been giving it their all.
Our return home comes

Montana—On Sunday, Aug. 14, I was typing the beginning of this article from the back of the pickup on the way to the field, on what should be our final hours in southern Montana. Yesterday, half of the machines in Montana made the pilgrimage to our final stop of the season northwest of Great Falls. The remaining team members will join them tomorrow, God willing.

Hard to get tired of this backdrop.

The crew has spent nearly three and a half weeks harvesting a variety of crops east of Billings. The finals days were spent in canola and chickpeas, two crops whose

Montana—One staple that can be found in my pantry is canned chicken. About any casserole can be made with the pre-cooked goodness on the fly, and “on the fly” is the story of my life in the summer.  

While east of Billings, I had 20 mouths to feed from my tiny camper kitchen. I needed to change things up and wanted to make enchiladas, but this harvest mama didn’t have the time or room to roll up or bake 60 enchiladas. So, the next best thing is chicken enchilada casserole, in the crockpot of course, for more efficient cooking and

Southern Montana—After the hailstorm debacle listed in the previous post, the weather turned off very hot and dry here east of Billings. With temperatures in the upper 90s and 100s, the crew was able to cut for nearly 10 solid days, and take care of most assigned wheat acres, before the next system moved through.

With good yields up north, it has taken all hands on deck to tackle this job. We even had a former teammate take vacation from his own operation to come help for a few days. It is always good to see former crew members, but even

Montana: I am so incredibly thankful that High Plains Journal has afforded me this platform to share High Plains Harvesting's version of the story of harvest. Showing the world agriculture through words, photographs and videos is one my of absolute favorite things. However, you and I know that there are so many other people too that have, are, or will make amazing contributions to this important industry.

There are so many amazing individuals and teams, at all levels and positions within the the harvest industry. In the past, I have shared some stories about other crews or harvest support professionals in

Montana—As the kids have grown, Ryan and I are continually trying to achieve a work-life balance for them and that looks different each season. There are so many amazing lessons to be learned on the road, but there are also valuable experiences to be had at home too. The challenge with parenting is that you never know if you're doing it right or not, but we, like so many of you reading this, are just trying to do the best we can for them.
We're fortunate that centrally located Kansas is our home base. This enables us a little bit of

Sidney, Nebraska—Full disclosure, this is a catch-up post. There are times in the season where the motherhood, harvest, and life all collide and the last week has been just that. I'm currently overnighting in western Nebraska on my way to join back up with the crew in Montana. They just arrived a couple days ago and have been running like crazy ever since. Tonight, they were driven out of the field by a big hailstorm. We hope the morning light will show an isolated event on the farm and nothing too widespread. I even caught the edge of a storm

Nebraska—If you have been involved with farming, I think you can smile at this exchange because everyone has a relatable landmark story.

The other day, we were out riding with our farmer inspecting the next fields. One of the conversations went something like this, “You have to split that field at the old windmill. Then there should be a post on the other side—I think it should be still standing. You cut across to it.”

I have no doubt that even if that post is down, he knows exactly where it always stood, and could drive straight there across on the exact line

Wallace and Greeley County, Kansas—One of the best things of being out in the middle of somewhere on the High Plains, is that you can actually feel your soul take a deep breath and a much needed sigh. Some people see a desolate plain, if all they’re willing to do is a 65-plus mile per hour drive by. However, you need to slow down and get off the highway to truly appreciate it. 

Out here, wheat whispers and sways with the movement of the breeze. Meadowlarks flit about and on occasion grace the listener with a song. If you’re lucky,

Wallace County—Last week started off hot and dry so wheat was drying down in a hurry. By Tuesday afternoon, everyone and their cousin was cutting and you know what can happen next. You guessed it. The lines started to back up at local elevators due to the influx of trucks and strong yields. The kids and I were called in to help relieve some of the stress with the trucks by hopping in a combine so that operator could switch to a truck.

Yields were pleasantly strong in the area between Hoxie and Hill City, Kansas. We saw a range of