When we left on harvest this year, the conditions were looking bleak. Since I have gone with the crew, it’s the only way it has been. 2012, 2013, and 2014 have all been very tough years on the Custom Harvesting Industry and obviously, also on the farmers we service. This year, it was the drought in Texas, drought/frost in Oklahoma, and drought in Kansas that left many of our fellow cutters home or – at minimum – getting very late starts.
When we got to Oklahoma, it was pretty apparent why they stayed home. We had 60% of our acres at 12-13 bushel averages and we were SO FORTUNATE to have that. Once completing our main job (that we’ve had for 30-some years), we headed to Blackwell where it was somewhat of a flop. We were supposed to have around 1000 and then it was wet and the farmer didn’t want ruts. After being there for a week and a half (for Bruce and Leigh; we stayed in Sentinel to finish that job so were only there for a few days), we did a little over 200 acres and it was time to leave. The farmer didn’t want us to create ruts, we couldn’t stay forever, and both parties agreed it was time we left.
Getting into Kansas, our first stop is in Manter. All said and done, we cut somewhere around 3700, which is below our “normal acres” (what does normal acres mean anymore?!) but still really great for what we were anticipating at some points this spring. Tribune, our second stop in Kansas, is just over 70 miles north of Manter and typically, we cut for one farmer there. Gilbert has 1100-1200 acres and we were feeling pretty lucky that we had all of his acres too.
For the past few years (except last year when we didn’t stop because Tribune yielded 2-3 bushels/acre), we’ve picked up a little extra from another farmer, Stan. He is a pretty big farmer and has his own machines but with wheat being such a sensitive crop, he sometimes will have us cut a little for him. Two years ago, I think we cut just under 500 acres for him and that was a nice little bonus for this stop. This year, he was going to have us cut the same and told the guys to call him when we were done with Gilbert.
It started with yeah, cut that 500 north by Wallace. Then it was, well since you are by Gilbert’s, I’ve got 125 you can cut there too. And actually, I’ve got another 600 west of that north stuff that if you want to cut it and can get to it, great. If you can’t get there, that’s no problem either. All in all, we cut around 1200 acres for Stan and that was all extra from our regular job. These are acres that we don’t rely on year to year but when they come, they are appreciated.
Since I’ve known Blake, we (they) have never strayed from our set path and most places we go have been a stop along the way for 20-plus years. I can’t help but think sticking to our route, in good times and bad, has helped us prevail through these rough years. Farmers want someone who will be there consistently, even if they don’t consistently use you. So for a farmer like Stan, he knows we are coming there to cut Gilbert and if he needs us any given year, we are happy (and thankful!) to oblige.
So now, we are in Chappell, Nebraska. From the looks of it, we’ll be harvesting 40-50 bushel wheat. This is the 7th year I have come here and I think the best it’s been in those years. Some of our friends quit custom harvesting after last season, as Chappell was their only remaining stop besides around their home, and we picked up 320 acres of theirs. We also have all of our regular acres here. Our next stop is Chadron and from my understanding, Chadron will also be a full acres stop. This hasn’t been that way for the past few years due to hail and dry conditions. Again, I recognize how very lucky we are.
And then there is what has been our saving grace these past couple years, Montana. Montana is a favorite of Blake and mine because besides being the last stop, we are settled for a while and she has bailed us out the past couple years. We harvested a ridiculous (-ly awesome) 10,000+ acres in 2012 that along with us picking up our fall job in Henry, helped with our poor fall crop at home (around Parker). And even with the devastating hail last year, Montana still helped bail us out from a total disastrous wheat run for 2013. It still wasn’t a very good year but obviously, we’ve come back for more. This year, provided no disastrous weather, it looks like we will have a monstrous harvest in Montana again, according to what we’ve heard. The winter wheat is average due to too much moisture this spring but the peas and spring wheat are looking the best they’ve ever seen it. I really don’t know how we could get any luckier given the wide spread conditions this year and I do sincerely mean that.
I know there are a lot of crews out there who are struggling and I feel really bad for them. The last couple years were tough but even then, we’ve had so much to be thankful for. 2012, Blake and I were so happy to finally be together for the summer. Like I said, Montana/Henry saved our fall, and we were anxiously awaiting our little baby to arrive. Though the wheat run was really tough in 2013, that little baby named Briar Mae was our morale booster – and we recognized it at that time. Blow after blow, she still was a day maker. I hope that those crews can find something to be grateful for because I know a really sad harvest can be a depressing place to be.
This year, we are the lucky ones and it’s important to be grateful for our immense blessings at this time. So that’s what we’ll do – rejoice and be glad – and continue to pray for those other crews who are absorbing a tough harvest.
*note: my stats/facts keeper, aka my husband, isn’t around so some of these figures may be slightly off, which will bother no one but the facts keeper himself. 🙂