Ride Along for Harvest Time!!

A day in the wonderfully fulfilling life of a farmer. There are many people that are associated with agriculture as a way of life. For those of you that aren’t, I am going to share with you a little bit about a day at the farm during harvest. There are many things that have to be done before starting the long, busy day. You always want to make sure ALL the equipment is ready and in proper working order (combine, grain cart, and trucks like the tandems and semi).

Tandem (left) Grain Cart (middle) Combine (right)
Tandem (left) Grain Cart (middle) Combine (right)

An example would be making sure that all of the bearings are “greased up” on the combine. A close family friend, who also helps out a lot, gets up before everyone else (I would say about 5:30 in the morning) on the farm to make sure that the combine and grain cart are ready for what the day may hold. This close family friend told me one evening in the tandem, “That getting up that early may sound silly but that he enjoyed the responsibility and trust that the other workers have in him.” When the rest of the crew arrives, they will setup the auger at the bin that they are going to be unloading into first. If the auger is already in place, then they will make sure everyone is on the same page for the day. For example, do they know where they are hauling to first and what is the order of the fields they are going to tackle? That may sound easy, but believe me, sometimes it can be hard to figure out the best order to attack the fields in relation to their locations. After all that is determined, they will run until the sun goes down or whenever they need to stop. With soybeans for example, they will stop at dusk. The reason for this is that when the soybeans start to get damp it makes it hard for the head to cut the beans.

Does not sound too complicated does it? Probably not, but there is a lot that goes on in between the beginning of the day and when the day is done are done. An example is coordinating the dump trucks (tandems) and grain cart with the combine. To get the grain cart full from the combine, it will take close to three full loads. The grain cart holds 1100 bushels and the combine holds 425 bushels. When it comes to filling the tandem from the grain cart it holds enough to fill two tandems perfectly (the tandem holds 550 bushels). When it is their turn to get their tandem filled, there are a few things that they have to remember. When the driver of the grain cart tells the driver of the tandem that they are full, they have to get out and cover the grain. This is done because they don’t want to have any of the grain fall out of their truck while they are on their way to the bin or elevator where they are going to unload. When unloading at the elevator, they have to get out before getting on the scale and uncover the grain, just the opposite of what they had done before leaving the field. This is done so they can test the grain moisture content. After they get back into the truck, they wait their turn. This could be anywhere from one minute to fifteen minutes, and sometimes longer. Then when it is their turn, they pull up onto the scales. While on the scales, they will weigh the truck and test the grain for the moisture level, along with some other things. They do this by putting a probe into the grain so that they can get grain to test. Then the drivers wait until they hear a buzzer, which indicates that the grain is tested and weighed. From the scales they are off to whichever unloading dock that they directed to unload the grain. An unloading dock is a place that is set up so that the truck can just be driven over and unload into the hatch. At this point the driver just has to wait for the grain to finish unloading; then the elevator employees will tell them to go back around to the scale. When the truck is done being weighed, empty at this point, another buzzer will sound. (This is how they determine the actual weight of the grain that was just unloaded.) The final step is to proceed into the office where they get a receipt that tells how much the crop made, and also the weight of the truck at both points (full and empty). As was said before, there are two different places that farmers unload their grain and this was the step-by-step process for an elevator.

It is a slightly different process when unloading into bins to store the grain (the grain is held in bins until the delivery date, or if not contracted, when the price is right). At the family farm they have a set up similar to an elevator’s. They have a scale that is used to weigh the truck, just like at the elevator. One thing that they don’t have that an elevator does, is the equipment to test the grain. Again they unload the grain, but it is a bit different than at the elevator. This is my favorite part; they go to where the auger is set up and then unload. This is where it is different.

Tandem unloading into the auger
Tandem unloading into the auger

At this point they open a small door over a large rectangle that feeds a big “cork screw,” like thing in the bottom of the receiver otherwise known as the auger. This takes the grain up the chute to get it from the truck to the storage bin, which takes just a little time. Once the truck is emptied, they will go back over the scale and get the weight of the truck empty. These steps are repeated over and over throughout the day. Now you can understand why farmers often work fifteen hours in a day. I know for some, this may not sound like a lot of fun; but for those who are farmers, it is truly rewarding. Yes, you spend a lot of time in the combine, on a grain cart, or in a tandem, but this is a farm family’s way of life. Most importantly, a majority of the individuals that pick this profession do so because they love it. They have to, for about three months out of the year, they are solely focused on planting and harvesting. A day in the wonderfully fulfilling life of a farmer is truly beautiful!

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image4Greetings! My name is Kirsten Schaer and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am currently working on my Bachelors of Agriculture Business. Prior to WIU, I graduated from Spoon River College with my Associates of Science. After graduating I plan to purse my dream of working in the sales end of agriculture. My home may not be on a farm, but every chance I get I am helping out on our family farm. The family farm has been a working farm for over a 120 years. I enjoy helping with various chores, this is especially true during harvest. A few of the things that I enjoy outside of agriculture are photography and spending quality time with my family.

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