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Once upon a time, there was an elementary-aged girl who enjoyed mowing her parents’ bluegrass yard on their John Deere lawn tractor. She had lots of dreams about what she might be or do when she grew up, but never once did she think about being a custom harvester. In fact, she did not even know what one was.

About two and a half hours to the south was a farm boy, whom she would meet some 13 years later, who loved nothing more than harvest. He left on the run when in his early teens and it might seem like the rest was history, but the story doesn’t end there.

Hi, my name is Laura Haffner and I co-own High Plains Harvesting with my husband, Ryan. Last summer, we celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary and this summer we will embark our tenth season as owners of our custom harvesting business. Those are two big milestones in our story. There are some days it feels like that time passed in a blink of an eye. Others feel like we have lived a lifetime in those ten years with the lessons learned, babies added, people met, miles traveled, zigs, zags, memories made and a bucket full of adventures.

While this is our tenth summer in business, Ryan is flirting with nearly 30 years of harvest experience. He started operating combine for his uncle at the age of 11. That fueled his desire to go on the run and Ryan hit the road with a crew, for the first time, when he was 14 years old. He continued the trend during school years until after college when he traded a cab for a spot on the MacDon harvest support team, both domestically and abroad. Even after he joined Great Plains MFG, a tillage and planting manufacturer, he still took “vacation time” to harvest prior to owning the crew.

My hands-on, harvest run background is much shorter. OK, it is virtually non-existent except for a few times assisting with harvest in the field or working summers at the elevator. While that was a good start, nothing could have prepared me fully for life on the road with a crew while raising two mini-harvesters. Thankfully for all of us, in the game of life, one does not have to be an expert before one tries new things. I have learned this business through a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. I will never feel like I have “arrived,” though, because the industry is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn and navigate.

We plan to head south to Texas in a couple weeks with a crew that is comprised of familiar and new faces. We look forward to seeing and serving our faithful customers along the trail that includes states from Texas, through Kansas to just shy of the Canadian border. Like most, whether in agriculture or not, times remain a little uncertain. There are still issues surrounding the pandemic, market fluctuations, rising fuel costs and weather challenges, which at the moment, specifically include drought and hail. However, despite the unknowns, we—and those like us—will lay it all on the line to harvest the grain that feeds us all. I look forward to sharing those stories with you.

—Laura Haffner can be reached at

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