50-year veteran wheat harvester reflections on career, retirement auction

Few couples can say they were together for 80 years, but Roland and Arloine McCreery have many achievements to their name that most cannot claim. The McCreerys were custom harvesters for 50 years and are founding members of the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. At 91 years old, Roland has put his remaining farm equipment up for sale in an online auction to be held Aug. 2.

“I cut for three and four generations on some of the same farms,” he recounted. “I really should have sold the equipment two or three years ago, but we finally decided to sell when I turned 90.”

The Ottumwa, Iowa, couple met as adolescents and were married upon high school graduation in 1947. Roland grew up helping his father on the farm, putting up hay and raising wheat. The couple started custom cutting wheat in 1949 and did so for 50 straight years before retiring in 1999. However, the McCreerys continued to harvest their own ground until Arloine died in May 2021 at 92. Arloine was passionate about being a school teacher, but gave up her position to help her husband run a grain elevator they bought in Pekin, Iowa, in 1957.

Roland said after he married Arloine, he continued to acquire more farmland and added a couple combines and he fell into custom harvesting buy chance. He had an aunt who lived in Wichita, Kansas, who ran a general store and the post office. She became well acquainted with area farmers and took note when the farmers expressed concern over getting their wheat cut.

“She said you have two combines, I don’t see why you couldn’t come down and cut their wheat, and that’s how I got into the harvesting business,” he said.

Roland said there were two different years of his half century wheat cutting career when the rain kept his crew from cutting and every time it was almost dry enough to start cutting, it would rain again. He remembers those years as tough times because he still had to pay and feed his workers.

“It’s something you’ve got to love because it can be a tough racket sometimes,” Roland said.

The McCreerys are well known in their community and have donated large sums of money to philanthropic causes, specifically a cancer center in Ottumwa that was later named the McCreery Cancer Center after the couple. Roland was also a Mason and a Shriner for years.

The retirement auction will include over 300 pieces of farm equipment such as tractors, combines, planting and tillage equipment, grain handling equipment, trucks, trailers, collector’s vehicles and motorcycles. For more information on the auction, visit www.sullivanauctioneers.com.

Lacey Newlin can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].