Fall. Pumpkins. Flannel. Changing leaves. Changing seasons.
As gardens and farmers markets succumb to frost and shorter days, other farmers and ranchers are in the middle of another busy season. Ask a farmer about the most wonderful time of the year, and you might be told that it’s harvest. There’s incredible mechanical precision in the midst of unpredictable weather and markets. There’s work to be done whether by sunlight or headlight.
Farmers, like us, who grow corn, soybeans, and sorghum are racing against imminent winter weather to get the crops out of their fields. On the livestock side of our farm, we’re moving our cows from summer pastures to the newly harvested corn and sorghum stalks for fall and winter grazing leading up to calving season. Their calves, seven months old and ready to be weaned from mother’s milk, are settled into their new surroundings close to home along with a new nutrition plan carefully suited for their continued healthy growth.
A day of harvest on our farm often begins and ends with checking the calves to ensure their optimum health. Next it’s off to the field where it’s both exciting and exhausting. Sometimes our truckers have already started the day with a predawn run to get in line at a grain elevator or processing plant.
When everything works as it should, the combine is ready to roll and the harvest crew is ready with drivers for the tractors hauling the grain carts. Our truckers haul either to an on-farm grain bin, grain elevator, processing plant for soybeans, ethanol plant for corn, or a feedlot. Throughout the year we collaborate with a broker to locate good opportunities for pricing our grain. We’ll sell some of our grain in the fall, while the rest of it will be unloaded from bins and hauled whenever our contracts dictate.
Safety is always a priority, but our harvest crew works as many hours as they reasonably can. Often the only breaks happen for breakdowns, wet weather, church, and taking off to watch our older kids play football or run cross country. Or a walk with our younger kids on Halloween night for small town trick-or-treating.
When everything doesn’t work as it should, that’s when the most wonderful time of the year has its anxious moments. Harvest delays from wet weather can impact yield and quality. Mechanical problems must be addressed efficiently in order to resume progress.
There’s a certain sense of accomplishment when a field is finished. All season, we’ve planned and worked to raise a good crop and take care of the land successfully so we can pay our bills and lay the groundwork for the future.
These are the stories we don’t get to tell those who shop the grocery store aisles and find corn and soy ingredients on the label. Our markets aren’t the kind where we get to look our customers in the eye and shake hands directly, but we would if we could.
The same pride and heart instilled in backyard gardens stretches all the way across our sprawling fields. It reaches all the way from our farm, to the grain elevators, to the food companies, to the grocery stores, and to your table as well as ours.