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Keep harvest team well-oiledKeep harvest team well-oiled

Prairie Post: Maintaining rhythm of harvest key to efficiency.

Kevin Schulz

September 13, 2023

3 Min Read
Crops being harvested in field
POETRY IN MOTION: The synchronicity between the combine and the grain cart can resemble a well-practiced dance in the field. Farm Progress

As I write this, the sultry Minnesota dog days of summer did an about-face to remind us that fall is nearing. Harvest will soon be upon us, and we will all learn if the crop projections were close to reality.

Regardless if the yield prognosticators were right, wrong, close or way off on the yield estimates, you still have to get your crop safely to the bin site or to your local elevator or processing plant.

For that, it takes well-oiled machines and a well-coordinated team. No one on the team is more important than the other. During harvest, I would pitch in when I could, and that usually landed me in the tractor running the grain cart. My dad, who always ran the combine, said running the grain cart was the toughest job.

Not sure that I would agree with that assessment, as I would pull alongside the combine waiting for Dad to unload his hopper into the grain cart. I would merely maintain the proper distance between my rig and the combine. Meanwhile, my dad was watching the flow of grain from the auger, ensuring an even load on the grain cart, all while maintaining the harvest speed and monitoring the corn head and all the controls. Two-way radios were a godsend, as Dad would offer instructions as to proper speed and distance, as well as if he’d attempt to get a little more grain in the cart before we’d reach the headlands.

Sure, I always got nervous when it came time to unload into the trailer parked on the end. But this could be handled while sitting still and just making sure that the auger didn’t overshoot the trailer or come up short. You spill, you scoop.

In the sports realm, the team’s quarterback is often called the “field general,” but in this instance my dad truly was the field general, making sure the corn harvest was a well-orchestrated dance.

Maintain stars of the show

In a cornfield or in an orchestra, every instrument or piece of equipment (and its operator) is integral to the overall performance. Instruments and pieces of equipment don’t operate themselves, although autonomous farm equipment is becoming available.

Musicians and equipment operators are the stars of the show, and the show cannot go on if key players are down. Everyone hopes and prays for a smooth harvest, but there will be breakdowns, as well as possible rain stoppages and those can lead to stress and strain.

Tractors and combines need to be refueled, but so do the operators. Regardless of what piece of equipment you operate, you cannot contribute to the team effort of harvest if you are sitting on the sidelines. Be careful not to succumb to the pressures that even the smoothest of harvests can bring upon an operation.

Take care of yourself this fall. Every piece of equipment needs to be properly maintained, and that includes you. Sometimes that can be the toughest job on the farm.

Comments? Send email to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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