SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) — Harvest crews travel hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of miles over the course of a summer.
Their journey often begins in the south, where crops mature
with the early warmth. They eventually make their way to Nebraska.
Minnesota native Reed Lundy and his crew of five started
cutting in June, somewhere in Oklahoma. Before reaching the panhandle, they
worked fields in Kansas. The end of their road will come in North Dakota, up
near the Canadian border.
Theirs is a life of hotel rooms, wide open spaces and long,
“It’s not as bad as it used to be, living in trailers and
using older equipment that would break down,” Lundy told the Sidney Sun-Telegraph.
He brings three modern combines. Today’s farm machinery is
loaded with technology, designed for comfort — air conditioning and a small
refrigerator come standard — and efficiency. Sensors inform the operator of soil
moisture levels, bushels per acre and other critical information.
“We have two brand new combines that cost $360,000 each that
are fully loaded,” Lundy said.
Paying for the equipment and crew depends upon the yield.
Simply put, the more bushels they cut, the higher the pay — typically right
around $40 an acre for this team.
Weather is the biggest threat to their performance.
“This year, some fields are ripe and spread out,” Lundy
said. “We may be here for an extra week.”
The crew ranges in age from early 20s to approaching 40.
Brad Olson from North Dakota has been on the road and in the
fields with Lundy for eight weeks, away from his home and children. Working Don
Cruise’s farm outside of Sidney is his last stop before heading home to cut his
This is Olson’s first year on a combine. He started in 2012
with Lundy as a driver of one of the trucks charged with hauling the wheat to
He enjoys the change.
“This is an easy job, with some difficulties,” he said. “You
have to watch the wheat to make sure that it doesn’t bunch up. If it does, then
you’re going too fast and have to slow down. Then you have to watch out for
rocks, fence posts thing that you don’t want to hit that could be hidden in the
Showing their thanks, Cruise and his wife, Nancy, prepare a
large dinner for the crew at the end of each harvest. The dinner was early this
year because the last fields were too green to cut.
Lundy and his crew will move on. For Cruise, he will try to
hire someone local to cut the rest of his wheat after it ripens.
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