June 16, 2018

Harvest heritage: Memories from the field

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Harvest is upon the wheat industry once again and for many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year — if not the most important. Seeing profitable returns from a wheat harvest is the name of the game in agriculture, but the feelings evoked by a successful harvest go beyond mere numbers. The memories created from achieving the hard-earned goal of a strong harvest are fondly remembered for generations beyond the current season.

For that reason, it’s no surprise that many WestBred wheat growers’ fondest memories of the wheat industry come from harvest time.

Harvest Memories Run Deep

Many wheat farms are multigenerational operations, like Oklahoma’s Daniel Crossley’s family farm, still operating in the same farmhouse that his great-grandfather was born in.

Alec Horton from Leoti, Kansas, got an early start in the wheat industry, helping inform decisions to purchase farm ground since he was 15 years old. Harvest time, Alec said, is part of what got him into the agriculture business to begin with.

“What got me really into it was just harvest time, riding the combine with my grandpa,” Alec recalled. “Sitting on his lap, learning how to run the machinery, looking at the crops with him.” Alec said he’d later inspect crops with his father, and described the depth of the knowledge being passed down to him.

“Getting that knowledge passed down, [such as] times of year that we do things, why we do things, why wheat is a good crop for our area because of the residue factor, and what we do with our crops,” Alec said, detailing the impact his crops made on the rest of the world. “What [our wheat can] do for the world and the people that we do feed and take care of with the crops that we grow; it’s definitely important.”

Brett Arnusch of Arnusch Farms in Prospect Valley, Colorado, can attest to the early calling of the farming industry. “My earliest memory of farming was slow, slow tractor work cultivating onions, creeping along inch by inch,” Brett recalled with a laugh. “There’s just something about the smell of upturned turnaround harvest that I love.”

Brett isn’t the only Arnusch with fond harvest memories. His father, Marc, owns and operates Arnusch Farms, an operation that has been in business since 1952. His favorite memory, similar to Alec’s, is sharing a combine with his father.

“I would tell you that my favorite memory of growing up on a wheat farm, and certainly of producing wheat, is always riding on a combine with my father,” Marc recalled. “That was kind of the measuring stick of if you got the crop right or if there was an area that you could have improved upon.”

Marc recalled his grandfather’s bushels per acre during his biggest harvests and believes he’d be “stunned by how far we’ve come in the wheat industry.”

“Years ago, when my grandfather was still farming the farm in Prospect Valley, 50 and 60 irrigated bushel yields were not uncommon,” Marc said. “Today, we're pushing through 140, 150, and this year's [National Wheat Yield Contest] yield contested at 160 bushels per acre.”

Big Yields, Fond Memories

A favorite harvest memory for Brandon Friesen of Meade, Kansas, a third-generation wheat farmer, happened more recently, when he won the 2017 National Wheat Yield Contest.

“Cutting the 115-bushel wheat that won the contest and doing that, that was probably my fondest memory,” Brandon recalled. “My favorite part of growing wheat would probably just be the anticipation with dryland. You never know what you're gonna get, you try your hardest and pray for the rain, and if it comes, you could be rewarded greatly. It's just kinda fun, the challenge, the anticipation.”

But even the shine of a recent championship couldn’t keep Brandon from reflecting on his earlier years as well.

“I started driving combines at age 13, I believe, with our harvest crew and my dad ran the crew,” Brandon recalled. “He had to run to town, he put me on the combine and said, ‘You're in charge.’ And I was 13, all our employees were 20s, 30s. And I get on there and start telling them ‘You're cutting too low!’ or, ‘You're cutting too high!’ I started bossing the employees around at age 13. Dad really got a kick out of that and so did the guys.”

Young or old, the memories created from a bountiful harvest can be carried throughout a lifetime. What’s YOUR favorite harvest memory? Send in your favorite memory to the.tiller@westbred.com and it could be shared on The Tiller and WestBred wheat’s social media pages.

Make your own memories by entering our #BredToWin photo contest on Facebook! Snap a picture, tag your variety and your location, and #BredToWin and #contest, and post to the @WestBredWheat Facebook page to enter for a chance to win fabulous prizes!*

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