At the Farm GateHarvest Traditions Shine Through Challenges
Much of what I love about farm life convenes in a corn field on a harvest evening: crisp fall air, incredible sunsets, comfort foods and the synergy of family and employees-who-are-like-family working together to gather the harvest. Ideally, only the delivery of a hot meal interrupts the harvest pace, not a breakdown.
Harvest traditions stir similar emotions today as they did during my childhood, despite how different the season’s pace looks. High-capacity combines make gathering crops unbelievably faster than in my grandpa’s day. Sensor-driven, hands-free guidance especially helps our combines through those areas where drone images identified wind-ravaged corn stalks. Our smartphones monitor the weather and even remotely control the drying needs for our corn before it enters on-farm storage.
Yet, that progress hasn’t changed our traditional roots, best evidenced through the kids. By age 4, my son identified picking corn with Grandpa as one of his favorite things about the farm. By age 5, my daughter sketched fall sunsets, detailing in crayon the vibrant shades of orange, pink and purple. Now middle schoolers, my kids still cheer for field meals that the farm women deliver, particularly when barbecued meatballs make the menu. This ultimate “dining out” experience re-energizes the crew and offers a chance for family time during 14-hour harvest days.
During weekend visits to the field, the kids enjoy a chance to talk on the two-way radio and announce wildlife sightings. They distribute baggies of homemade treats marked with safety messages. The kids excitedly carry a personal cooler filled with snacks like the harvest crew, but their great grandpa’s “dinner pail” ranks extra special. It contains red licorice, luring riders to his tractor and highlighting the uniqueness of four generations of family together harvesting the same field.
These traditions help carry us through this growing season, one of the most challenging in recent years. Harvest started a month late after the delays from a historically wet planting season. The bummer: we may not finish before Thanksgiving, a time when we traditionally celebrate the completed harvest. Harvest may spill into December, pending weather.
“Christmas carols in the combine,” my husband said. I will admit my obsession with Christmas music, but that’s one harvest tradition I want to avoid.
About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle in West-Central Illinois.