The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
db Conard, The Quill
My thanks to Ray Defenbaugh of Biggsville for the lessons and the experience of cruising over his family fields in his combine this weekend. From the high seat of the combine surrounded by windows, you seemingly float over the corn as it is fed into the machine-very much like flying.
The primary emphasis is being alert. Watching tip height and alignment, auger rpm, travel speed, boom discipline, hopper level, caution lights, and a lot more, makes paying attention crucial because mistakes are unforgiving and always costly.
Operating a combine is very much like piloting a helicopter in that you have to watch where your blades are all the time. But in the sky one has the freedom to wander around a bit, but not on a combine. You have less than two feet of leeway that must be followed for literally thousands of miles of crop rows.
It was when we first emptied the hopper into the grain wagon after dark that night that I realized the treasure, as I watched the flow of the corn out of the mouth of the boom. Flood lights shining on the corn made it golden and I likened the image to a flow of treasure.
As I looked around, I saw a family and neighbors working together as a team doing what they had so obviously done many times before. Ray's wife Alice was handling the grain wagon as she rode by his side. Ray's sons Matt and Dan shuttled the harvest by truck to their elevator and bins where it would be dried and stored, while Ray's neighbors were in the field, Bruce Wolf with his combine and his wife Joyce running the grain wagon. Again I saw treasure.
The sharing of equipment between farms made such a difference in the process of getting the crops in. It nurtures the foundation of a strong community, which is one of people working together
Harvest is about no wasted motions.....gather it up, dump it in the wagon, haul it to the trucks, unload, and repeat until all of a sudden the field is harvested and it is time to move on to the next.
Friday morning I was at the Twomey Company at their huge grain storage facility in Gladstone watching at another angle as the harvest rolled in from all over the area. There were long lines of trucks, mostly semi's, quickly moving to the drying and storage facilities where the fruits of the year's labor would be realized.
Craig Twomey said the company at two of its facilities were handling almost four hundred trucks a day, hauling close to a million bushels of corn.
The weather had switched from an unusually wet season to a blessing of several dry, warm windy days, just in time to save what might have been a disaster of wet crops and land. Area farmers raced into the fields to harvest, and were finding that the weather had helped in the last two weeks to drop the average moisture content of the corn from around 30 points to an average of 21-22.
Eight points of moisture content can mean a great deal to the bottom line when you consider 2.9 cents penalty per point of moisture over the optimum content of 14 which is the standard for corn to be stored and 15 points for crop to be shipped.
Each full 850 bushel grain wagon was worth approximately $200 or more than it might have been if there had not been this weather break. Harvest averages of between 200 and 260 bushels, (I saw better than 260 bpa at the Defenbaugh farm) per acre were not significantly down from the year prior, so all in all, it looks as though many of the area farmers have a chance for a very good season.
Both John and Craig Twomey said their only problem was drying the grain as fast as they would like. On Monday they were having to stop accepting trucks at 3:00 in the afternoon to allow the dryers to catch up with demand.
The Twomey Company estimated more than eighty percent of the soybeans were in and that as of Monday, better than sixty-five percent of the corn crop was in the barn. That is almost ten million bushels of corn so far and approaching four million of soybeans at Twomey's. Not a record year, but still a good one according to the Twomey's and much better than many feared.
Crossing the mighty Mississippi River I see the barges tied in rafts, sitting low in the water, as they are pushed down the historic waterway filled with one of the best kinds of products I can imagine, one from the land by the hands of the diligent farming community to be shared by all.
Helping to feed the world literally is worth more than any rare metal or jewel. I can only imagine the satisfaction of our farm families as the last of their crops are sold or stored, and the weather, for a little while, ceases to rule their lives. Next it is about clean-up, fix-up, and get ready for next year's season. For awhile most of the pressure will be gone and vacations can be taken, or family time enjoyed until next spring, when the weather will once again set the tone of the song, "Back To Reality."
But for this moment of Harvest time, a pilot will fly over and marvel at the pure beauty of the colorful patchwork of fields from the sky, but the true treasure is the feel of the Harvest, sitting in the combine, hearing the sounds of the golden grain load into the truck, watching the care and the diligence one must take, and then you just have to marvel at the labor of the people of the land, each one a true Treasure in the Heartland.
Joyce Wolf watches as she moves corn into a waiting semi with one more day left of harvesting with her husband Bruce and the Defenbaughs this past weekend.