The days get shorter, the nights longer, but farmers dont
pay much attention to time these days as they rush to complete
the harvest before winter sets in.
Wanting to write about farm life during harvest, I asked
former Daily Chronicle farm editor Craig Rice to put me in touch
with a family who owns close to the average-sized farm, 1,256
That is how I became acquainted with the Erlenbach family,
who live on Lee Road north of Waterman.
Not only did I learn all about their daily lives, but I
found out about Harold Erlenbachs great-grandfather, a
colonel in the Union Army who Harold thinks received a land grant
and began farming in this area.
The Erlenbachs gather in their kitchen on a rainy
Saturday morning for a cup of coffee. In back are Jamie and his
son Jackson. Jeanette and Harold are seated at their kitchen
table. (Schrader photo for ShawMedia)
The family still owns that ground, part of seven parcels
in three counties totaling about 1,000 acres that they farm to
One of their sons, Jamie, returned to farming with his
father after he went to college and worked at a seed company
for 11 years. Jamie said its in his blood and he is back
farming for good. His 3-year-old son, Jackson, was nearby playing
with farm toys as we talked, so there could be a sixth generation
of Erlenbachs in agribusiness.
Getting back to my original intention finding out
their daily schedule Harold said they normally get up
at 6 a.m. every day during harvest and planting seasons, but
Jamie added it could be 2, 3 or 4 a.m. depending on field, crop
and weather conditions and how much they have left to get done
before fall turns into early winter.
So after a quick breakfast (no steak, eggs, hash browns
and toast for them) they head outside to take the equipment to
wherever they are combining that day.
For the technically minded: They own a John Deere 9560
STS combine with a 25-foot-wide soybean head and six-row corn
head. Harold mentioned that his late father was an Allis-Chalmers
man, and they still have some of his orange tractors around the
Jeanette packs lunches of healthy-sized sandwiches, apples,
a granola bar and lots of water for their 14-or-more-hour day
in the fields. Jamies wife, Amanda, generally takes food
out to the men at suppertime. She works full time in the entomology
department for Monsanto, plus has two young children, so cant
work the farm like Jeanette has all these years.
By the way, Harold and Jeanette work for H&R Block
in the offseason, which they have both done for more than 40
years. That helps supplement an income that varies from year
to year, depending on the market, weather and crop yield.
They have storage capacity in their bins for 50,000 bushels
of corn and 15,000 bushels of beans. They sell about half their
crop right away to grain elevators in the area.
I cant forget to mention that before Jamie rejoined
his father on the farm, Jeanette worked beside her husband in
the fields for a number of years. No stranger to rural life,
she grew up on a dairy farm, one of five Lembcke daughters. Her
mother, Helen, was a Bend.
Jeanette still works with the men, handling the unloading
of grain into the storage bins.
Knowing all this, I now have a greater appreciation for
those people we see working in a cloud of dust as we drive down
the highway. They dont have time to watch a new season
of TV shows or enjoy a Starbucks on their way home from work.