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Published August 22, 2011, 04:55 AM

Harvest changes with the times

Agriculture has changed in so many ways through the years, and harvest is no exception.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Agriculture has changed in so many ways through the years, and harvest is no exception.

We may like the changes; we may dislike them. Whichever, we have to accept them.

Now that harvest finally has rolled around after a strange spring and summer, let’s consider a few of the changes.

If you have strong farm ties and have reached a certain age, you may remember so-called “harvest schedules.” Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for rural schools in the region to adopt temporary schedules that shortened the school day and permitted students to help with the local grain harvest.

It made sense, at least economically, in farm towns. Many, maybe even most, of the older students, worked on family farms or were employed by local farmers.

But such schedules haven’t been used for years and aren’t even feasible under existing standards, according to the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

That’s a good thing academically, I suppose.

It probably makes sense agriculturally, too. I have no statistics to support this, but it seems safe to say that even in farm towns, a smaller percentage of students work in production agriculture today than a generation ago.

Older area residents with farm ties probably remember another harvest tradition that has fallen by the wayside: farm wives preparing big, hearty noon meals for the folks doing hard, physical work in the fields.

Today, of course, many farm women are working off the farm. Even if they’re at home, harvest, while still demanding, doesn’t require as much physical exertion as it once did.

So many harvest changes

There are many other changes, too. They include:

- New and different crops being harvested. Older farmers probably have memories of crops such as rye and flax. Today’s farmers are forming memories involving corn, soybeans and canola.

- Bigger and better farm equipment. Trucks and combines that once seemed technology advanced are considered practically primitive today.

- Staying connected. Farmers today aren’t in their own little worlds when they’re running a combine or swather. Cell phones and other technology helps them stay in touch with the outside world.

No doubt you can think of other differences. Feel free to drop me a line and tell me about them.

Not everything changes

For all the differences, harvest has stayed the same in at least two fundamental ways.

It’s still dangerous, maybe more than ever, especially when people with tired minds and bodies push themselves longer and harder than they should.

Yes, yes, you already know it, but I’ll say it anyway. Be smart. Be careful. Be safe.

Harvest also retains a certain glamour and excitement. Even the most practical, hard-headed agriculturalist gets a little pumped about bringing in the crops.

No harvest is easy, and the one ahead may be particularly difficult, especially if the crazy weather continues.

But every harvest, including this one, is special. No matter how wild things get, find a moment now and then to appreciate the opportunity to be part of another one.