It’s easy to get so busy and stressed that you miss the pure pleasure of the harvest season.
Sometimes we need to see it through the eyes of others to appreciate the magic that happens on farms at this time of year.
The stress factors are numerous. Machinery breakdowns can be costly. Parts may not be readily available or may not arrive on time.
The weather always throws curve balls. The timing of desiccation and swathing is always a bit of a judgment call. Will the extra harvest help be available when needed?
On many operations, there are extra people around at harvest who need to be fed.
And you need to worry about everybody getting along. Is little Jimmy really ready to run the grain cart? How will Amanda make out swathing canola?
Harvest is the make or break time of the year, when all the investment and hard work culminates in a superhuman effort to get the crop in the bin. But if you get wound up too tightly, you drive people away and make the task harder.
Because of all the unknowns, people can easily come to dread harvest. As a kid, I certainly did. My dad didn’t handle the extra stress very well.
Harvest seemed to drag on forever and I seemed to find every way possible to screw up while hauling grain, a task that started when I was only 10 or 11.
Of course, back then it was a rope-pull six inch auger stuffed in little wooden bins and 200 bushels was a big load on the truck.
You had to shovel out the corners each time to make room for the three hoppers that the combine would dump before the next trip back to the bins.
Forty plus years later, harvest is still a rush and I still get short on sleep and frustrated sometimes, but the farm is also a bit of a magnet for people who think it’s a marvelous experience.
You probably know people like that — people who grew up on a farm and people who didn’t.
Of course, the farm at harvest isn’t exactly a tourist destination. If someone wants to visit, they need to pitch in and not become a burden, but most know that intuitively. They want to help.
They want to contribute. Much like people are excited to go on a cattle drive, many are excited by the harvest experience.
Beyond an extra set of hands, outsiders bring a new appreciation for the amazing equipment we now have to work with, the beauty of the land and the thrill of nature and the outdoors.
There’s much less physical labour than in decades past, but there can be some of the same camaraderie that the old-time harvest crews must have experienced.
Pause and breathe deeply now and then in the frantic weeks ahead. Marvel at a sunset over a golden field of wheat.
Have a beer with the crew at the end of a long, but productive day. Swap stories and enjoy the company.
The work does become repetitive, but it isn’t like toiling in a factory. Every day has new challenges and you have to make the appropriate adjustments. It would make a great reality TV show.
Overall you’ll get more done and you’ll make better decisions if you dwell less on the daunting task ahead and think more about how this is a great business to be in.
Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]