CP commentary: Harvest time brings challenges and appreciation

Harvest marks the end of the countless hours farmers spent cultivating fields during a long, hot summer. The combine engine fires, and the golden kernels find their way to the hopper. Small particles permeate the air, which leaves a cloud of dust that smells of earthy tones.

Brian Schumacher, a farmer and grain elevator owner who lives outside of Bowling Green, Missouri, said harvest consists of, “high labor and freight demands, while the farmer’s supply of time and energy runs low.”

I grew up in a small farming community just outside of Bowling Green, Missouri. Being employed for Schumacher has given me a greater appreciation for farmers and their contribution to fuel the world we live. While working at the grain elevator, I unloaded grain during harvest as well as ensuring the elevator operated smoothly under strong demands.

It was common for Schumacher to turn farmers away due to lack of storage space within the grain bins. He would diligently work to transport grain to larger facilities so he could continue to serve the farmers of the community. One method of distribution he commonly used was shipping on the Mississippi River, as it is located just 15 miles away from the plant.

It is critical that individuals working through harvest are considerate of others. It is stressful for everyone involved to work long hours while continuing to frantically complete the task at hand. Harvest is a long process and the equipment must be inspected daily and problems must be fixed to continue.

According to an article about grain safety on agweb.com, farm safety practices must be followed or disaster can strike leading to severe injury or even death. In the rush of completing harvest, sometimes not every worker focuses on safety. Grain, if mishandled, can be deadly, and the agweb.com article states that an adult can be engulfed and suffocated in grain in less than 20 seconds.

Small farming communities are close knit. One aspect that I appreciated the most about time spent unloading grain was the small-talk and getting to know the farmers better. Knowledge is valuable and vital to carry on a high-quality conversation with others who are experts on a specific subject. Before I began working at the grain elevator, I had a general knowledge about how time consuming and labor intensive it is. After working at the grain elevator, I realize first-hand how labor-intensive grain harvest is.  

Another challenge that often arises is the need to dry grain. By challenging I mean having to have a separate bin to store the higher moisture grain. Drying higher moisture grain means having to spend more time and use more labor. High moisture grain is difficult to get cleaned out of a bin, but must be done before using that bin for dry grain. When the grain is above a certain percentage moisture, the farmer gets paid a lower price. Grain elevators must have a different place to store grain that is higher in moisture and then the grain must be dried so the elevator profits.

Grain elevator operators, for the most part, do not want to store grain any longer than necessary. High quality grain is worth more and operators can justify keeping it longer. The elevator I worked at carried many agriculture products and ground feed for customers. Therefore, Schumacher must keep corn in storage so he can have corn for feed rations. The grain quality must be high to make feed that animals benefit from. Also, high quality feed keeps the customers happy and returning to purchase more feed products.

After dealing with the hectic harvest, I have gained immeasurable knowledge that will stick with me for life. I have always known where my food comes from, and I now have a much higher level of appreciation for everything that goes into food production.