Laura Haffner – High Plains Harvesting

Laura Haffner - High Plains Harvesting

Laura Haffner always loved agriculture and rural living, but she never dreamed she would be living out that passion through traveling the backroads of the Great Plains with a harvest crew.

She and her husband, Ryan, own and operate High Plains Harvesting, based in Park, Kansas. The couple, along with their children and team, travel from Texas to the Canadian border to harvest wheat, canola and other small grains. They return to Kansas at the end of summer to harvest corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and the occasional sunflower and pinto beans.

Ryan’s harvesting experience started as a young child with his family. He was hooked and continued harvesting summers throughout his teens and early 20s with a local crew. He later took over a business, which has become High Plains Harvesting. This season will mark their 11th as owners.

This is Laura’s 10th year writing for All Aboard Wheat Harvest.

“Harvesting is a good but challenging way of life,” Laura said. “It has afforded me the opportunity to meet some amazing people and visit incredible places. The tough times have grown my faith in ways I never thought possible. With the current drought, it looks like the latter will once again be put to the test.”

The Haffners’ children have an expanded worldview as the result of their travels and meeting people from all over the United States and the world. The children, who affectionately go by Little Man and Lady A in the blog, are ready to hit the road for another season. Lady A says she likes, “going on adventures with my family.” Little Man is excited to “go to the field, seeing new places and do new things!” In the children’s eyes, harvest is a grand adventure, and the Haffners work hard to take advantage of many lessons that are available along the trail to help teach their children about life.

Ryan and Laura appreciate the chance to share their journey with you, and Laura looks forward to interacting with the readership throughout the season.


Morgan County, Colorado — If everything goes according to plan, the first load of equipment leaves for Montana tomorrow, July 16. The extremely warm temperatures experienced across the United States have not excluded northern Montana. With temperatures at nearly 100 degrees, the wheat crop will be ripening quickly. Many harvest crews are en route, ready to position equipment for when the time is right.



Colorado experienced decent yields. In fact, to date, with a few outlying examples of patchy hail or drought, most of the wheat run's yields can be classified as "all right." In recent years it seems that there


Wallace County, Kansas — It was the most beautiful evening the night I began this article. I had moved my “office” outside and was typing as I watched mini-harvesters play with their friends in the neighboring lot.  It was our last night at this stop, and I knew goodbyes would be hard the next day. As luck would have it, for whatever reason, fellow harvest kids are a the exception, not the norm at our camp stops. We made the most of our time and this treat. Lifelong memories were made here while they swam, played hide-and-go-seek in the dark,


Hamilton, Greeley, and Wallace County, Kansas — Wheat harvest has been moving quickly along the most western edge of Kansas. It seems to be moving so fast that my analytical brain wanted to see some historical data on the matter. I reached out to the Kansas Wheat Commission to see what sort of information the commission could provide the All Aboard readership. The commission came through in a big way and has allowed me to share the diagram below.



Thanks to the Kansas Wheat Commission for sharing this data.



According to the wheat report released today, July 1, 2024, the Kansas


Gove County, Kansas — As the lift gate of the SUV raised toward the sky, the wind speed seemed to simultaneously increase. I had seen some weather reports say that the wind would rival that of a March, spring day. That prediction seemed to be holding true.



As salad was placed on plates for an early afternoon meal, pieces of lettuce flew from the dishes like well timed fighter jets lifting off a carrier. Luckily, a well placed squiggle of ranch was enough weight to take care of that problem. Lunch soon returned to a more manageable situation.



A


Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma — Yesterday morning, on June 17, a Facebook "memory" popped up on my phone. I was greeted with a smiling picture of my high school friend and me, between harvest responsibilities, while working in Texas.



It's hard to believe this is already a year ago!



Exactly one year and a day later from the when the photo was taken, and pending any strange unknown complication, the last crew in Oklahoma will be finished and will soon join others in western Kansas. Last year, the crop matured later, and we didn't leave the Alva, Oklahoma, area until after


Barber County, Kansas — Storm clouds started to build on the horizon the evening of June 13. The forecast didn't show a high probability of storms, but the radar told a different story. Storms in many parts of the country have been exceptionally wicked this spring, so I started to get a pit in my stomach as green began to appear in the clouds while yellow severe warning boxes flashed on the screen.



Just that afternoon, I had taken a combine for a spin while its driver, Thim, ate lunch. The wheat was thick in that part of the field, and


Texas and Northern Oklahoma — As I stepped out of the camper that Saturday morning, the air was so thick it almost stopped me like a brick wall. OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but it was one of those days that it just felt like "something" exceptional could happen. I wasn't the only one with that feeling, though. The National Weather Service issued severe weather watches across multiple states. The conditions were right, but they didn't know exactly where the weather would be.



With an eye to the sky and ears on the weather alerts, crew headed to the


North-central Texas: It was a nearly perfect, late spring evening in north central Texas. The breeze was just strong enough to cut through the heat and humidity, but not enough to disrupt the lids of the meal boxes at supper. It wasn’t long before I sensed something on my head, rubbed the spot, and felt something warm ooze onto my fingers. Ugh! The blood thirsty mosquitos were not deterred by the wind, and they were out in force!



I wish I had something for scale, but those mosquitos were huge!



The only thing better than taking pictures of combines is driving


Texas — Wednesday, May 15 goes down in the High Plains Harvesting (HPH) record book as the beginning of the 2024 season. However, the start of harvest has been marked with storms and humidity. The start/stop process can be frustrating, and great care is needed to avoid being stuck. There will be plenty of big days of cutting ahead, but fighting the elements can be frustrating. Preliminary yields have been coming in around 35-40 bushels per acre.



Ryan sent in the combine posing after one of the first test cuts of the season.



View from Ryan's cab one of the


As I turned the corner to head to Carrico, our local John Deere dealer, on the morning of the crew’s departure, something caught my eye. It was a cool spring morning, and the fog was just rising from the field of green wheat.  In the distance, the sun was quickly rising over the horizon and through the low cloud it started to give the wheat a heavenly glow. Beads of dew hung from the awns and twinkled in the light, almost like a field of diamonds.  



If you look closely, you can see the diamond-like drops of dew. Imagine the