A Generous and Giving Breed

By Katie Thomas Glick and Sarah Thomas

It was a chilly December Saturday on the farm. The barn lot was covered with snow and filled with several semis, but our family didn’t own all of them.  So, why were there so many semis parked in the snow covered barn lot? While many of you were listening to Christmas music and finishing up your shopping, our family was trying to finish harvest.  Yes, just because the seasons according to the weather change does not mean they have changed for the farmer.  Only a few of those semis belonged to our family, the others belonged to different farmers. Farmers who were so generous to give up their time and help our family.  This year was a bountiful harvest (the largest in our state’s history), but it was a wet harvest. We needed more space to store the corn and soybeans we grow in our grain bins. These farmers came with their semis to load and haul away grain so our family could have room to store our grain in the bins.

Semis that belong to our fellow farmer friends that came to help us back in December.

Semis that belong to our fellow farmer friends that came to help us back in December.

That day was also a familiar scene. The barn lot was full of other farmers’ semis over five years ago, the day after our father’s funeral. Some of our farmer friends came out to the farm with their semis to help take loads to a grain elevator and give a beautiful tribute to our father. It was amazing to see our farming community come together when one of their own needed help. That’s what farmers do.  They give help when it’s needed. They are a generous breed.

Semis in the Fall

Semis lined up in our barn lot the day after our Father’s funeral, November 28, 2009, as tribute to his life and work on our family farm.

 Farmers are also dreamers and gamblers.  They dream for a perfect year that brings perfect weather that will help yield the perfect crop.  But they know that the perfect year will never come, and yet they still take that gamble.  Farmers know that there can never be a perfect year because there is always different types of circumstances that get in the way.  Whether those circumstances are the weather, a death of a local farmer or the fluctuating markets, they will continue to make that gamble and strive for the perfect harvest.  And when these circumstances begin to slow them down, others from their breed come with helping hands, and in our case, a semi too.

 They give so much of their time to their farm and their lives to the land while every season brings new challenges but new opportunities.

 Farmers live and die by seasons, and they learn to appreciate each one of them.   All four bring their positives and negatives.  Spring brings warm weather to melt the snow and warm up the ground where the farmers plant their seeds and begin again.  They pray that a late frost doesn’t coat their crops and that rain doesn’t flood and wash them away.  Farmers’ prayers in the summer include timely rain in June and July for the corn and in August for the soybeans.  And it shouldn’t include heat and dry weather that lasts weeks on end.  The harvest prayer is for safety in the fields, on the roads and at the farm.  Winter is a time to plan for the spring planting season, rest up a little and spend time with fellow farmers at meetings learning about new farm practices or how to make our farms better for our families and all those we feed.

 We aren’t saying that farmers work harder or give back more than other professions.  Well, we might be a little biased especially during some of God’s seasons like spring and fall.  What we are saying is that they appreciate the seasons and care for the earth they are given and the people they provide for.  We were fortunate to learn that lesson on our family farm and hope to share it with others.

The year our father passed was also a late harvest.  At times we watched snowflakes coat the corncobs that were left standing in the field.  But they weren’t there long thanks to the farmers who came to help with our harvest.  We are forever grateful for your friendship, commitment to agriculture and your hard working, caring hands. You are a generous and giving breed.

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Celebrate the Harvest

   By Sarah Thomas and Katie Thomas Glick

You have seen them, passed them or heard them. Some are green and others are red, there may be yellow ones too.

It’s harvest time. Farmers are in their fields picking crops they have nurtured since spring.

We lost our farmer in the middle of harvest. It was five years ago this Thanksgiving when the tractors were still rolling in the fields and the grain dryer was buzzing through the cold, clear night air. And to this day we still celebrate his life and we still celebrate the harvest.

For the farmer, fall is not about pumpkin spiced flavor drinks and treats. It’s not about taking selfies by the changing leaves or who has the highest score in a fantasy football league. When those leaves begin to change farmers are making sure their equipment is working properly, scheduling loads to grain elevators and making sure their livestock has all the necessities they need for the changing season.

Those monstrous machines you see in the fields and taking up much of the road and shoulder are called combine harvesters. Their job is all in the name; they harvest the crops. Combines are the most important piece of equipment in the fall season. You will also see tractors with a “big wagon” hitched to the back that runs alongside the combine. That wagon is actually called a grain cart. Its job is also all in the name as well. It carts grain from the combine which is harvesting the crops. And then there are semis. The grain from the grain cart is transported into the bed (back end) of the semi. The semi then gets on the road to deliver the grain to grain bins or silos back on the farm. From there, the grain bin stores and dries the grain until the farmer is ready to sell and transport it to a different destination, like a grain elevator or a livestock farm.

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In Indiana, our farmers have a variety of options for their corn and soybeans after the harvest. They can keep it on their farm and store in in their grain bins, they can deliver it to a country elevator by semi or a container yard for transport by train or even a barge terminal along the river for it to be sent down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and then be sent somewhere around the world, most likely China or Japan. They can load it by semi to be sent to a soybean processer to make soybean meal and oils or to an ethanol plant to make ethanol and DDGs (distillers dried grains which is used for livestock feed).

In Indiana, we plant a lot of corn and soybeans with other crops being grown throughout the year including wheat, sorghum, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables.IMG_5939

In our state, we mainly think of harvest during the fall. However, there are so many other crops that are harvested throughout the year. Think about your garden and summer farmer’s markets. The agriculture family has stepped up our game in recent years in regards to educating consumers about where their food comes from and about the seasons in which they plant, nurture and harvest. The new documentary film “Farmland” follows several young farmers from around our country and highlights the various faces of farming and what the future of agriculture looks like. One farmer featured is a cattle rancher in Texas while another is an organic farmer in California and yet another poultry farmer in Georgia. All very different but all farmers working in agriculture with harvests that occur throughout the year. You can now watch “Farmland” on Hulu and step foot on these farms and ranches to learn more about agriculture and be a part of their harvest.

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As our Indiana farmers are in the thick of harvest and the month of November is a time to gather around the table with family and friends to celebrate, remember to give thanks for the food on your table. Give thanks for those that planted it, nurtured it, harvested it, took time away from their families to provide it for you and may have lost their lives when the combine was still rolling. Give thanks for the old farmers, the young farmers and the future farmers. Give thanks for the harvest because you are a part of it too.

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