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Wheat People - Part 4

Celebrating Kansas Harvest

Dakota Caldwell shoveling wheat at Chapman, 1998Family

"The whole family comes together . . . from grandpas to younger kids, to do their share."
--Louanne Short, Assaria, 1998

Every family member has a role in bringing in the harvest, and it's especially important that the entire unit functions like a well-oiled machine.

Aside from operating combines, people are needed to drive grain trucks, locate parts for broken equipment, prepare and deliver meals, and (if the wheat is stored on the farm) keep track of the harvested grain as it's dumped into bins.

Jason Frey (5) and Derek Young (13), grandsons of Enola and Nelson Dreier, help operate the grain cart, Hesston, 1998.Extended family also comes into play. Aunts, uncles, and cousins living in other states return to the farm to help. Town friends drop to get the latest word on harvest. Professional harvest crews become like family to the farmers they visit year after year.


"No matter what your age, it's pretty exciting."
--Robert Miller, Wellington, 1998

Unlike most other occupations, farming depends on children as an integral part of the work community. Farmers count on their children for valuable assistance, and small-town teenagers are hired for summer jobs.

Kansas farm children have always operated machinery at a young age, usually beginning at 12 or 13. Being part of the farming community instills values and attitudes that last a lifetime.


Combines lined up in a Harper County field, 1998.

Custom Cutters

"They've just been like family."
--Jesse Craft, Brewster, 1998

Custom cutters are professional harvesters who contract with farmers to cut wheat. Their harvest community is on an interstate scale. Many crews head south in late spring and then move north with the ripening wheat, some traveling from Texas to Canada.

Most professionals own new machinery because it sees heavy use during the season, and because customers prefer successful-looking outfits.

Kim Moreau (Canada) catches up on reading while waiting for trucks to return from the grain elevator, Leebrick  farm, Atwood, 1998.Although hours are long, custom cutters make friends along their routes. Because harvesting agreements are nearly always verbal, cutters and their customers must stay in contact throughout the year. By the time harvest rolls around, both parties look forward to renewing old friendships.

"Jim Brubacher is the person who cuts our wheat, and the story that's always been passed down to me is that his grandfather started cutting wheat out here around 40 years ago for my wife's grandfather. So this farm has gone from generation to generation. . . . Brubacher harvesting crew has gone from generation to generation. The Brubachers are like real good friends of the family, and if they have a wedding or something we are invited, and if we have a wedding they are invited to ours. Then we stay in contact with them throughout most of the year, so it's just like they are our extended family."
--Ron Shilling, Brewster, 1998


Wheat People: Celebrating Kansas Harvest is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. Wheat History - Corn used to be "King" in Kansas
  2. Gearing Up - Getting ready for harvest
  3. On the Run - Everybody moves quickly
  4. Family - Coming together in the fields
  5. Fast Food - Meals are a social event
  6. Nature - June is a stormy month
  7. To Market, To Market - The local grain elevator
  8. The Season's End - Harvest festivals
  9. Business or Way of Life? - Farming is both

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov