This season: Long days loom as farmers harvest bountiful crops

'It's a marathon run. You know your pace. There's kind of a rhythm to it'

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The mid-month harvest moon, bright enough to cast shadows behind midnight observers, foretold a season of roaring machines devouring vast swathes of golden grain — tableaus of brilliantly lit combines gliding across darkened fields, emptying themselves without stopping into rolling grain carts, conveying the no-time-to-lose urgency of the harvest.

For the farmers who run those machines, the harvest — despite its 14-to-16-hour work days — is the highlight of their year.

“It’s payday,” said Wayne Humphreys, who farms with his son, Justin, near Columbus Junction.

“It’s what I work for all year,” said Jim Greif, who farms near Prairieburg.

“It’s a time of both anticipation and apprehension,” said Curt Zingula, who will soon be undertaking his 40th and final harvest on his farm north of Marion.

Greif, an Iowa Corn Growers Association director starting his 40th harvest, said his favorite task is driving the combine. “It’s an adrenaline rush when you see the numbers spike on the yield monitor,” he said.

Having relinquished that task to his wife, Sharon, however, Greif hauls the grain from the field and runs the dryer.

“This crop is going to be really good. Lots of bushels for me to haul,” he said.

Humphreys, an Iowa Corn Promotion Board director, will be undertaking his 38th harvest on what appears to be “a really good crop.”

Like Greif, he will drive the truck while his son runs the combine.

“I have the old man’s job. Justin is a lot better at the complicated electronics” inside the cab of their combine, he said.

On a typical harvest day, Humphreys said they will start at 8 a.m. and quit about 10 p.m. after covering about 50 acres.

Humphreys said the six-row head on their combine “keeps us just as busy as the two of us like to be.”

“It’s a marathon run. You know your pace. There’s kind of a rhythm to it,” he said.

Zingula, a past president of Linn County Farm Bureau and an Iowa Watershed Improvement Board director, said he will retire and sell his equipment after he harvests his 40th crop.

“It looks like I will end my career on a high note with my best yields ever,” he said.

Zingula said he will miss the satisfaction inherent in raising and harvesting a good crop, but not the lengthy grind of a weather-plagued harvest.

“I try to look at what I’ve got done rather than what I have left to do,” he said.

Zingula also said he will not miss the disheartening feeling that comes “when you know you have done everything right but will still make little if any money because of the two main factors out of your control — the weather and the markets.”

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