SIDNEY, Neb. (AP) — Harvest crews travel hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles over the course of a summer.

Their journey often begins in the south, where crops mature with the early warmth. They eventually make their way to Nebraska.

Minnesota native Reed Lundy and his crew of five started cutting in June, somewhere in Oklahoma. Before reaching the panhandle, they worked fields in Kansas. The end of their road will come in North Dakota, up near the Canadian border.

Theirs is a life of hotel rooms, wide open spaces and long, hot days.

“It’s not as bad as it used to be, living in trailers and using older equipment that would break down,” Lundy told the Sidney Sun-Telegraph.

He brings three modern combines. Today’s farm machinery is loaded with technology, designed for comfort — air conditioning and a small refrigerator come standard — and efficiency. Sensors inform the operator of soil moisture levels, bushels per acre and other critical information.

“We have two brand new combines that cost $360,000 each that are fully loaded,” Lundy said.

Paying for the equipment and crew depends upon the yield. Simply put, the more bushels they cut, the higher the pay — typically right around $40 an acre for this team.

Weather is the biggest threat to their performance.

“This year, some fields are ripe and spread out,” Lundy said. “We may be here for an extra week.”

The crew ranges in age from early 20s to approaching 40.

Brad Olson from North Dakota has been on the road and in the fields with Lundy for eight weeks, away from his home and children. Working Don Cruise’s farm outside of Sidney is his last stop before heading home to cut his own wheat.

This is Olson’s first year on a combine. He started in 2012 with Lundy as a driver of one of the trucks charged with hauling the wheat to silos.

He enjoys the change.

“This is an easy job, with some difficulties,” he said. “You have to watch the wheat to make sure that it doesn’t bunch up. If it does, then you’re going too fast and have to slow down. Then you have to watch out for rocks, fence posts thing that you don’t want to hit that could be hidden in the wheat.”

Showing their thanks, Cruise and his wife, Nancy, prepare a large dinner for the crew at the end of each harvest. The dinner was early this year because the last fields were too green to cut.

Lundy and his crew will move on. For Cruise, he will try to hire someone local to cut the rest of his wheat after it ripens.


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