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Harvest season shows farmer work ethic

Don Farrall/Getty Images combine harvest at sunset
DAWN TO DUSK: Harvest is a busy season for farmers across the nation. They are often up before dawn heading to do chores. Then they will climb in a combine cab and head to the fields to harvest. Often it isn’t until after dusk that they bring the last grain from the field to the bins.
College Farmer: Jumping in the buddy seat was the only way to visit this farmer-dad after hours.

“I’ll see you at dark thirty!”

This is a fairly common phrase in my house, especially during harvest season. When my dad says it, he usually means he won’t be home until later in the evening.

At a young age, I often wondered how my dad could spend all day, every day, year-round, in the cab of a tractor. I’d ask my mom, “Doesn’t Dad get lonely?” In response, she’d usually smile, shake her head and explain how Dad had cows, crops and people to take care of.

A few years ago, I finally began to understand.

Farm responsibility

Earlier this year, my dad and I were hauling hay together in Missouri’s brutal July heat. We’d been going since early that morning, and dinner time was quickly approaching. Yet, we didn’t stop; there was still work left to be finished.

Farming is a year-round occupation that doesn’t stop for the weather. In October, our family once again spent all day harvesting soybeans and moving equipment because a huge storm was predicted to roll in overnight. We finally settled in to eat dinner together at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night.

Through these experiences (and many more), I've realized the reason my dad doesn’t come inside until long after the sun has set isn’t because he doesn’t want to spend time with his family or he has a hard time knowing when to quit. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Simply put, my dad strives to squeeze every ounce out of each day that he can, even if it means taking a few more rounds or “one more load.” The responsibilities that stem from a life in agriculture aren’t something he takes lightly. He simply can’t rest until he’s finished the jobs or tasks he’s set out to do, and on the farm, there’s always something that needs to be done. 

Generational work ethic

Possessing a strong work ethic is a trademark quality of most farmers nationwide.

A study published by Stanford University and Santa Clara University, “Agricultural Returns to Labor and the Origins of Work Ethics,” shows how a high work ethic and longer working hours are typically present in countries or regions where farming work has been historically important.

More notably, the study determined that this work ethic is typically passed down through generations, even if following generations don’t remain involved in agriculture.

My dad’s strong work ethic is one of the top things I admire about him, and I’m so thankful he and my mom instilled the same values in my brother and me. While I may miss his company from time to time, I know the buddy seat is always open for me to tag along any time I’d like. More so, I remember he’ll be home soon, but not before he’s checked everything off his “to-do” list. 

Then he’ll get back up and do it all over again the next day.

Quinlan is a senior in agriculture education, communications and leadership at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Contact her at

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