Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

Lauren and Victoria Go Harvesting

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Jason Lenz’s farm, along with Lauren Reid, Alberta Barley’s Events and Marketing Coordinator, to see first-hand the hard work that goes into harvest.

I’ve been to Jason Lenz’s farm three times now; yet leave it up to Lauren and myself to get lost anyway! We eventually found the familiar dirt road that led us to Jason’s place and were so excited to make our way up the driveway. We had been looking forward to leaving our office jobs for the day and becoming harvest farm hands since we came out and seeded canola with Jason in the spring.

Working for Alberta Wheat Commission and Alberta Barley, Lauren and I are immersed in agriculture every day. I’m growing increasingly passionate about the ag industry as I progress in my career, and appreciate any learning opportunity that comes my way.

I’m by no means a city girl. I grew up in rural Ontario on a piece of land that snakes its way back through Prince Edward County for just over a mile, and my family has actively done projects throughout my lifetime on our property which have given me an inherent appreciation for our land.

But I am not a farmer either.

I appreciate the intensely dynamic lifestyle that farmers lead, and spending a day harvesting with Jason was about as authentic an experience as I could ask for. AWC is lucky to have Jason as one of our regional representatives. He invited Lauren and I out because we had expressed an interest in learning, and he was extremely patient with us as we asked questions all day.

"I’m just gassing up the combine," Jason told us when we went over and said hi.

A few minutes later we were off, with Lauren tailing behind in the pickup truck and me riding shotgun in the combine with Jason. We spent our day harvesting two fields – one was hail-damaged Canada Prairie Spring (CPS) wheat and the other was Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) CDC Go that was looking pretty good and pulling in about 60 bushels/acre. Both were an important learning experience.

Harvesting a hail-damaged field really put things into perspective for us. It gave me a first-hand look at the frustration and disappointment that farmers face when weather doesn’t cooperate. I felt a little sad as we combined the field – as I mentioned before, we came out for a day of seeding too and I’m well aware that seeding is only a small part of the work that would have gone into this field.

But there was an upside to that field – I could see Kevin Bender’s dad harvesting in the field next to us! Kevin is one of our board members with a good sense of humour and I emailed him saying, "If you’re in a green combine, I can see you!" Knowing the farmer whose field I was looking at just a few hundred feet away gave me that down home neighbourly sentiment.

We finished that field and moved on to harvest Jason’s CDC Go. Things were looking up.

"This is how wheat is supposed to look," he told us.

As with seeding, I was astounded by the level of technology that is involved with harvest. I knew you had to check the moisture levels in the field and I of course knew that the main question is, "how many bushels an acre did you get?" But I didn’t know that farmers were looking directly at that information on their combine all day. "Well, if the combine is going to cost the same price as a house, they better have technology like that!" Lauren made a good point.

We loved watching the wheat come out through the auger. As I watched it pour into the grain truck, I started thinking about how this was the first step on its journey somewhere. Jason hadn’t sold it yet, so I’m not sure where it will go – in a bin for now. But I was picturing it ending up back on my kitchen table in downtown Calgary – you never know. 

We looked at this trip out to Jason’s place as an opportunity for professional development. But I’m never going to forget it.

"I could get used to this," I told Jason.

Last time when we came out for seeding, we sang songs while we swept under the bins, we climbed up the grain elevator and got ourselves so covered in dust that we looked like we had worked much harder than we actually had. We learned about treated seed and we learned a ton about fertilizer. This knowledge is integral in our agriculture career development – but even more important, it gave us a first-hand look at what a farmer’s day looks like. After two days on the farm with Jason, I certainly can’t claim to know all things farming. But I learned a lot, and like I said to Jason, I could get used to it.

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