It's wheat harvest in Kansas. Combines roll out from their winter seclusion and one lane roads make way for the wide berth of headers and rumbling grain trucks. Golden plumes of wheat dust rise above John Deere green on the prairie landscape, and the co-op hums a harvest tune as grain is weighed and emptied from beds.
Farming is a serious thing. And it's a family thing. Each person plays a role in a successful harvest, whether it's bringing meals to the field, cutting the wheat or hauling it to town. It takes sunshine and hot temperatures, sweat and tolerance, patience and perseverance. And it takes faith. Faith that crops survive and thrive through the elements of a sometimes harsh climate. Faith that machines will make it through the seasons. Faith to plant again, even after hail, freeze or drought steals away the hope and plans of the here and now.
I watch as the combine cuts a wide swath; the wheat heads succumbing to the sharp teeth that pull them up into the bin as an ever-growing patch
of stubble trails behind. Its belly now full, the powerful machine rolls across the stiff stalks - heads up - as the auger swings to the side. The grain is lifted through the shoot and pours into the truck's bed like golden rain, skirting into every corner. Now empty, the combine returns to the field for another round. The grain truck makes its way to the elevator while the farmer hopes for low
moisture and high bushels for his acreage.
Most years it is an exciting time. Men gather in the morning for coffee while its too wet to cut to discuss prices and problems and help one another out when someone gets behind or falls ill. Mid-day sees a flurry of activity as the monstrous machines consume the wheat and everyone gives right of way to those who provide our bread.
This year has been different. It was a difficult spring. A late freeze did major damage to the crops. Add strong winds and flooding and the results are sobering. Many of the farmers are discing their fields, burning them off and taking their losses this season. Others are cutting at 1/3 of what they normally bring. There is insurance, but it doesn't cover the hours of toil, the hopes, the dreams. It is only monetary and cannot take away discouragement or give back time.
If it were anyone else, any other job, it would be over. Terminated. I quit. But it is the American farmer; people who are stoic and strong, who may stumble at times, but always, carry on. It isn't just a job, it's their living - their life. So it has been since the pioneers walked their rows, laden with thick straps across clumsy oxen and so it shall continue. It is a right of passage, a legacy that is carried proudly from generation to generation.
The first line of the FFA Creed states it best:
"I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words, but of deeds."
There is another generation that believes in their future of working the land and raising livestock. The faith doesn't come from lofty promises with gilt-rimmed edges, but from watching and learning from parents and grandparents and from working alongside of them. They see the reward of contribution to the world and togetherness of a family. They look ahead and believe that the days of sunshine will outweigh the days of darkness. Despite the setbacks, despite the odds, they love the land and their heritage. It is a faith not just born, but alive and filled with hope.
The American Farmer. God bless them.