The more things change, the more things stay the same. This ancient proverb has never seemed more applicable than over the past few months. As the 2020 wheat harvest season kicks off here in the Midwest, it's hard to not have COVID-19 vividly on our minds.
This pandemic has caused us all to rethink our every day lives, but some things really never do change—like the need for harvesting grain to feed our nation and the world. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's start with a quick introduction.
I am Brian G. Jones of Greenfield, Iowa, and I am a second generation wheat harvester and a fourth generation farmer. About 50 miles southwest of Des Moines in the rolling hills of southwest Iowa I live on the family farm where I was born and raised. In 1983 my father Glen Jones and grandpa George Rahn began—unknown to them at the time—a 35-plus year legacy of wheat harvesting across the Midwest for our family.
Our crew is completely a family operation. Glen Jones and his wife Vernelle farm in southwest Iowa with their son—that's me—Brian Jones and their daughter, Brenda, and her husband, Cameron Hamer. Brenda and Cameron have four young boys, Titus, Ezra, Judah and Canaan, and all nine of us spend the summer harvesting together. My grandfather George retired from the wheat run after 27 years. His son David Rahn, my uncle, now operates the Rahn family farm near Butterfield, Minnesota. David joins us with his equipment each summer, continuing the Jones-Rahn harvesting legacy.
This year we start our 38th wheat harvest season, but it all started during the tough financial times for farmers in the 1980s. We were looking for additional income to keep financially viable during the farm crisis, and combines were big investments. We were inspired by George’s brother who ran a custom harvesting crew, to load up our own equipment and head to Oklahoma.
Now, 38 harvest later we are keeping the tradition alive. This year, however, has a different feel. COVID-19 has made for a very strange spring for us all. Social distancing isn't so hard when you spend most of your time in a tractor alone or caring for baby calves in the pasture. Farmers consolidated trips to town, did more business over the phone than in person, and we washed our hands not to just clean them of grease but also a potential virus. While many Americans found themselves at home temporarily unemployed, harvest crews continued their daily work of preparing and planning for the 2020 season.
So now we find ourselves living on the road in five states for three months, trying to balance the importance of being responsible for our personal health—and those around us—and still harvesting thousands of acres that feed our families and financial supports an endless number of Americans. It's an uncertain time and we are not sure what to expect. What food will be readily available at the grocery store to feed the crew? How can we be mindful of social distancing as we travel? Will there still be a toilet paper shortage?!?
I guess we will all find out together because "we're all in this together." The Jones Harvesting family is excited to have you join us virtually this season. Some adventures are best shared, and we all share a unique connection to the land. After all, that is why we are here—for the love of the harvest. The 2020 All Aboard Wheat Harvest experience is about to begin. We are glad to have you on board. So sit back, relax and enjoy this year's "COVID Combining Experience."
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc. and High Plains Journal. Brian Jones can be reached at email@example.com.