Change is in the air. With harvest running three weeks early all summer long it feels like fall is already on the brink. The nights are starting to get cooler and the days are slowly getting shorter. The vibrant colors of the spring flowers are gone and the bright green pasture grass is wilted up after the extreme summer heat. Stubble takes the place of the fields that were once filled with golden waves of wheat. The rush of “back to school” is evident throughout any town you visit. The world we know is preparing to slow down for the dormancy of winter. With these seasonal changes I know what else is coming…real-life changes.
The entire Roland Harvesting crew is currently spread out across Wyoming harvesting malt barley. We are blessed with a gorgeous scenery to enjoy while we work here! Brandon, James, Jose and I will continue to help out Mom and Dad for the next week or so until we head back to college at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. My parents will finish up malt barley harvest then head back home to Nebraska to plant wheat in early September. After planting is complete they will begin harvesting fall crops in the area including millet, edible beans, sunflowers, and corn. Unfortunately, we (kids) miss out on most of the fall harvest, even though we always try to sneak away from school for a couple of weekends to help out.
For me, the end of summer always brings up bittersweet feelings. It is a time to reflect upon the harvest run and recap all of the bad days, funny stories, breakdowns, lessons learned, and successful stops, as we recall the numerous adventures we encountered during the past few months. These memories and emotions seem to always make their way to the surface and intermix with feelings of excitement and anticipation of school. Ever since I could remember it has been the same routine for us Roland kids: When “summer harvest” ends, school begins. Sure, starting school is always thrilling – you finally reunite with your friends you have been separated from all summer long, you establish a general type of routine, and you go back to “real life,” as some people may call it.
In theory, going back to school is a nice break from the hustle bustle lifestyle of wheat harvest. However, after a few weeks of sitting in class and spending several hours studying and doing homework every night you begin to miss the spontaneity of harvest. After living in the same place for a month you start to long for a change of scenery and wonder what’s up the road. Then there are those days of school where you have a thirty page paper to finish and you think “man, I would trade this project for the worst, muddiest, and most challenging wheat field we cut all year.” Growing up we used to joke that all of us kids inherited Dad’s gypsy blood and that we all got bit by the “harvest bug.” Now that we’re all grown up I truly believe this is actually exists. The incredible thing about harvest is that it somehow gets in your blood, digs deep into your soul, and settles into your heart where it never leaves you.
Whenever I would experience these “harvest impulses” during the school year I was calmed by the thought of the following summer. I always knew that once spring rolled around I would be hopping in a semi or pickup to head south with the convoy on another harvest run. However, this is the first year that I don’t have a single idea about what next summer is going to bring. James is stuck in the same limbo as me since him and I will both begin our last year of college this fall. In May, I will graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, and James with his Mechanical Engineering degree. As James and I try to figure out our future plans, Brandon will continue to pursue his degree of Agriculture Communications and Jose will go on studying Agriculture Business.
After my graduation it is hard to tell where life will lead me or what I will be doing. Perhaps I will be clear across the country working as an RN in a hospital or maybe I will be back on the harvest trial for the summer until I settle down. At this point in my life I feel like my calling is in the medical field. Nevertheless my amazing experiences on harvest will never leave me and the countless lessons I have learned will never be wasted, but continue to both prepare and benefit me in school and in the work world. Truthfully I hope to reside in a rural farming community someday and I feel confident that given my upbringing in such an area that I will make this dream a reality. And if nursing happens to not be my gig in life than I’ll return to where my heart will always remain: agriculture. You can take the girl off of harvest but you can’t take harvest out of the girl.
Reflecting upon this summer I realize that I was a first-hand witness to history in the making. No really, the summer of 2012 has signified a major milestone for Roland Harvesting. Most summers our crew works all together on the same job but this year we have constantly been split up. The early harvest had a lot to do with our original split in Oklahoma but this led to the unplanned change of Brandon slowly taking over as boss. Brandon, James, and I completed many stops successfully while Mom and Dad worked alone at a different area. It is Brandon’s dream to take over Roland Harvesting and continue to operate it in the same manner my parents have for 35 years. Without any intentions of it happening, this summer ended up being the transitional period that Brandon and Dad needed.
Overall, I have truly enjoyed sharing my family’s harvest journey with you all these past two summers. I feel extremely blessed to have had this opportunity. I would like to offer a huge thank you to the staff at High Plains Journal and Syngenta for sponsoring the 2012 tour of All Aboard Wheat Harvest! AAWH would not be a reality today without the enthusiasm, dedication and help of you! This is such a wonderful way to promote agriculture and I hope that it will continue for many years to come. I would also like to give a sincere thank you to all of you fantastic followers out there as well. Your awesome support is greatly appreciated – from emails to comments, you always made my day. Lastly, I would like to thank our faithful farmers who have helped Roland Harvesting grow and prosper over the last 35 years. Also, a special thank you to the new customers we became acquainted with this summer. All of these farmers, “old” and “new,” continually help to ensure that Roland Harvesting will be around for many years to come. We appreciate your loyalty and business more than you will ever know.
As we finish harvest here in Wyoming I know these upcoming changes are inevitable. But, just because the season of wheat harvest is coming to a close doesn’t mean the spirit of harvest is. When I get back to school I will develop my new harvest photos to hang up in my house for everyone to enjoy and ask about. During Thanksgiving we will share harvest stories over dinner and spend hours laughing with the family about mishaps and adventures. On Christmas morning we will drag out our worn New Holland toy combines to play with our little cousins and show them how harvest works. In February we will begin searching for employees to help out for the upcoming summer. As spring settles in during April, the combines and headers will receive full-blown makeovers as they prepare for the busy months ahead. Finally, in May, the combines will be looking good as new and all chained down on the trailers as the crew begins their journey south for another harvest run. Whether I am leading the convoy in a pilot car bound for Texas or interviewing for a nursing job in California I know my heart will be with harvest. No matter what the season or time of year, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, the spirit of harvest never leaves me.
The boys told me I just had to share this picture with all of you. Ever wonder how we find time to write all these posts? For me, I brainstormed throughout the day and would begin the actual writing process after we finished work for the night, which could range from 10 pm to 2 am. I’d usually stay up for a couple of hours to draft everything out and sort through all the photos. The next morning I’d typically edit my post in the pickup on the way out to the field. The photo above was observed quite often by my fellow crew members. Yes, I’m quite the nerd!
All Aboard Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and Syngenta. Megan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.