There’s nothing quite like the excitement of harvest, especially in a year when the challenges have been immense. About the only thing that tops it is watching the face of a kid who is experiencing riding in the combine or watching the grain cart load a semi for the first time.
On the first days of July, I had the fun of taking five or my eight grandkids along for a trip to Lane County to get an up-close look at harvest on Ehmke Seed Farms near Dighton, complete with a chance to see playa lakes, ride in a combine and learn a little about the people who come from far away to help harvest Kansas wheat.
Harvest at Ehmke Seed Farms is a busy season full of hard work. Harvesting the thousands of acres of wheat and triticale takes several days (weather permitting) and two custom cutting crews running four to six combines each.
EXPLORATION: One of the fascinating things about a visit to Ehmke Seed Farms is exploring one of the several playa lakes that dot the farm. Ranging in size from a few acres, such as this one in the middle of wheat field, to 130-acre “Lake Louise,” the lakes fill with water after heavy rain and in hours are teeming with “shrimp larvae,” which hatch hours after the water rises. The hatchlings attract flocks of shore birds for a couple of weeks until they next generation sinks into the mysterious muck that forms the bottom of the lake. The grandkids are Geneva (left) Dylan and Lewis.
It’s quite an event, just for spectators. Being able to participate, even in a small way, was memorable, even for me after years of living on the farm and decades of writing about harvest in Kansas. We headed to the field at sunset and, after pulling each kid aside for a reminder of the safety rules, we hopped into the big machines to experience the thrill of watching darkness fall, the lights come on and the wheat move from field to bin. We even experienced the tension of watching as lightning lit up the sky to the southwest and the combines raced to complete the field ahead of the impending rain.
GOING FOR IT: When Dylan spotted water, it was full speed ahead to explore. He was disappointed to learn that a shallow, marshy playa lake doesn’t offer much in the way of the water recreation he’s used to. But he was fascinated to hear the story of how the lakes are believed to be a major source of recharge for the precious Ogallala Aquifer.
We stayed as guests of the Ehmke’s in their somewhat-famous grain bin scale house, which boasts guest rooms upstairs with the scale house, offices and conference spaces downstairs. One room features a small plaque certifying that “Barry Flinchbaugh slept here,” a tribute to the visitation of the well-known Kansas State University professor emeritus of ag economics and pheasant hunting enthusiast.
FAMOUS QUARTERS: The Ehmke “Grain bin scale house” offers three guest rooms upstairs, one with the claim to fame that well-known Kansas State University ag economist Barry Flinchbaugh has been a guest.
On this visit, we had a chance to experience the first days of harvest with the Ehmkes and one of their custom cutting crews; explore a small playa lake; and gain some insight into the process required for the Hoffman Harvesting crew, which utilizes an H2A labor crew to keep rolling.
You will be able to read all about the experience and what we learned in upcoming articles.