All Aboard Wheat Harvest on the trail again

High Plains Journal’s All Aboard Wheat Harvest program kicks off its 14th year this week! Learn more about all of our AAWH correspondents below.

To follow all the crews on their journeys along the harvest trail, visit Also follow us on social media for live Friday reports and giveaways.

Brian Jones

My name is Brian Jones of Greenfield, Iowa, and I am a second-generation farmer and wheat harvester. I was born and raised on a family farm about 50 miles southwest of Des Moines in the rolling hills of southwest Iowa. During the tough financial times for farmers in the 1980s my father, Glen Jones, and grandpa, George Rahn, began looking for additional income to keep financially viable during the farm crisis.

With combines being such expensive investments, we were inspired by George’s brother who ran a custom harvesting crew to load up our own equipment and head to Oklahoma. From knocking on farmer’s doors randomly in the countryside to referrals from locals, one job led to another that moved us northward one state at a time. As they say, the rest is history, and the 2022 season marks the 40th anniversary of Jones Harvesting.

Our crew is completely a family operation. Glen Jones and his wife, Vernelle, farm in southwest Iowa with their son—that’s me!—Brian and their daughter, Brenda, and her husband Cameron Hamer. Brenda and Cameron have four young boys, and all nine of us spend the summer working together harvesting. David Rahn now operates the Rahn family farm near Butterfield, Minnesota. David joins us with his equipment each summer, continuing the Jones-Rahn Harvesting legacy.

Back in Iowa the Jones and Hamer families work together raising corn, soybean, and hay along with running a cow-calf herd. We also do some customer farming and harvesting locally as well. With spring planting finished and the cows turned out to pasture, we load up equipment typically early June and head to our first stop in central Oklahoma, followed by stops in southwest Kansas, western Nebraska, central South Dakota and southern North Dakota.

As we begin our 40th year of harvesting the amber waves of grain on the Plains, it’s hard to not look back and consider all that has changed over the years. Yet one thing has remained the same … our love for the harvest. It’s been quite the adventure, and we look forward to sharing our journey together with you as we celebrate our 40th anniversary together.

Brian Jones can be reached at [email protected].

Laura Haffner

Laura Haffner always loved agriculture and rural living, but never dreamed she would be living out that passion through traveling the back roads of the Great Plains with a harvest crew. But here she is.

She and her husband, Ryan, own and operate High Plains Harvesting based in Park, Kansas. The couple, along with their children and team, travel from Texas to the Canadian border to harvest wheat, canola, and other small grains. They return to Kansas at the end of summer to harvest corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and the occasional sunflower and pinto beans.

Ryan’s harvesting experience started as a young child with his family. He was hooked and continued harvesting summers throughout his teens and early 20s with a local crew. He later took over a business, which has become High Plains Harvesting. This season will mark their eleventh as owners.

This is Laura’s eighth year writing for All Aboard Wheat Harvest.

“Harvesting is a good but challenging way of life," Laura said. "It has afforded me the opportunity to meet some amazing people and visit incredible places. The tough times have grown my faith in ways I never thought possible. With the current drought, it looks like the latter will once again be put to the test."

The Haffners’ children have an expanded worldview as the result of their travels and meeting people from all over the United States and the world. Their children, who affectionately go by Little Man and Lady A in the blog, are ready to hit the road for another season. Lady A says she likes, "driving the equipment and helping in the kitchen." Little Man is excited to "see new places and do new things." In the children’s eyes, harvest is a grand adventure and the Haffners work hard to take advantage of many lessons that are available along the trail to help teach their children about life.

Ryan and Laura appreciate the chance to share their journey with you and Laura looks forward to interacting with the readership throughout the season.

Laura Haffner can be reached at [email protected].

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Christy Paplow

Christy Paplow joined Paplow Harvesting & Trucking in 2010 after meeting and dating her husband, Paul Paplow. Twelve years later, Christy and Paul are married with one daughter, Zoey, and work side by side with Paul’s father, Gary, and mother, Rhonada, in their 30-year-old harvest business.

When speaking to her experience on the harvest Christy says, “I have learned so much over the last decade, especially since I didn’t know much to begin with, but I feel that there’s still so much to learn.

“I think my love for life over the road stems from my upbringing.”

Christy’s parents belonged to a motor-homing club that traveled four times a year all over the Southeast to motorhome rallies. Christy says, “We were very lucky growing up to travel all over and meet wonderful people from many different places and backgrounds.”

That love of travel and meeting new people fits well with Christy’s way of life now as a harvester. She enjoys cooking for their crew, keeping campers tidy, staying on top of paperwork, and building relationships with all the farmers they service.

As a second year contributor to All Aboard Wheat Harvest, Christy will share all the ups and downs her crew experiences over the harvest season. “Some days are uneventful, smooth running days, while others make you wonder why you do it!”

Christy Paplow can be reached at [email protected].

Janel Schemper

My name is Janel Schemper. I am a third-generation custom harvester from Holdrege, Nebraska. I’ve been going on harvest my entire life. I am a combine operator and truck driver too. Our harvest run has always started in the month of May in the Frederick, Oklahoma area.

We’ll journey up the central Midwest states, harvesting wheat fields in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota during the summer months. We’ll also harvest chickpeas, lentils, and canola in the northern states on our harvest run. Our fall harvest takes place in both Kansas and Nebraska where we harvest corn and soybeans.

The 1950s was the start of my family business known as Schemper Harvesting. My grandpa, Jerry Schemper, experienced several drought years on the farm in northern Kansas and so that is when he went out on the road and made himself a living in the custom harvesting business. Please check out for more details.

I joined my family harvest crew—Mom and Dad and three older siblings, Julie, JC, and Jared—and started harvesting at just 5 months old. I can remember my dad, LaVern Schemper, running Gleaner combines in the ‘80s and then he switched to Case combines for a very short time. Then in 1990 he became a John Deere customer. I got to grow up running John Deere combines.

The combine cab was where I spent my time with my dad or siblings riding along with them and is when I learned all about operating a combine and running a business. Otherwise, my time was spent riding with my mom in a truck hauling many loads of grain to the elevators or grain storage sites. When we would move from location to location and traveled across the Great Plains states of America following the wheat belt. I would ride with my dad in a truck hauling a combine and I always just felt better riding along with him. He had a way of being organized and professional and always made me proud.

I was happy just being included in the business and working alongside him. At the time, I never thought I’d one day be the one to take the lead and be driving a truck and hauling a combine down the road. I have always enjoyed getting to be a part of the harvest crew. Some things just never change.

By the time I was 13 years old, I was operating a combine full time during the summer months. That was 25-plus years ago. After I finished my school years, I continued harvesting. Our harvests typically last six to seven months each year. The years have gone by far too quickly.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get out of school for the summer and go harvesting. I just always looked forward to it. As soon as I weighed enough to keep the combine header going—due to a micro switch in the combine seat—I was in the driver’s seat. However, the combine header would occasionally shut off during my teenage years due to my “light weight.” I would sometimes have to sit a coffee can full of nuts and bolts on my combine seat arm rest to add the necessary weight to keep it going. I made it work just fine.

Going on harvest has kept me super busy. Harvest for me is definitely the best way to grow up. I would not have had it any other way. I will always be in love with all of those amber waves of grain. It is always quite the sight. For the rest of my life, harvest time will always hold a special place in my heart. To my family it is not so much a job; it has become a tradition and a way of life that is now into the fourth generation. I will continue to support our family harvesting business in the growing generations.

The work ethic I have gained through each harvest season has been a great learning experience and I continue to learn and polish my skills every single day. I was taught early on that it takes “a lot” of work and a can-do attitude to be a harvester. Typically, the days in the field can be twelve  to eighteen hours long and is what it often takes to get the job done.

I learned responsibility at a young age. My dad taught me all about that. I learned to accept and do what was expected of me and to not ever complain about work but be glad for the opportunity and the ability to work. I have also learned about patience through the custom harvesting business. It sometimes seems that we are in the “hurry up and wait” business.

We may push hard to get to our next job or field and get started cutting only to find that the crop is not ready yet or it’s happened before where a rain shower beat us to it. Sitting and waiting for grain to dry is sometimes what we have to do. Heat and wind are often what it takes to get the appropriate harvesting conditions that we need to make progress. The weather plays a huge role in our day-to-day work and can be quite the challenge.

When people ask me questions like don’t you miss being home or how can you stand to be away from home for so long, I always think of our military. Our military service men and women sacrifice their life for our country. They leave home and fight for our country. What I do for a living is possible because of their sacrifice. My dad is a veteran and it’s just been instilled in me to think about the bigger picture. The United States of America is the land of the free because of the brave. Have that for a mindset while harvesting away from home and you’ll do just fine.

I’ve gained a lot by being able to experience the American harvest year after year. I’ve always felt fortunate that I have a family to get to go to harvest with. It is a unique occupation no doubt about it and it is not for the faint of heart. It takes an exceptional work ethic, excellent work habits, honesty, responsibility, a grown up attitude and serious business professionalism and dedication to fulfill a harvest season year after year—typically May through November. The future of agriculture will always be interesting in my opinion. I want to be a part of it forever.

I’d like to dedicate my All Aboard Wheat Harvest blog posts to those who know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to appreciating the amber waves of grain and this beautiful country and lifestyle. Thank you to all that have contributed to the success of my family business, Schemper Harvesting from Holdrege, Nebraska. We are grateful for the employees and the customers.

I joined the All Aboard Wheat Harvest in 2017 and have appreciated the opportunity to get to share my harvest story with the readers. It’s been amazing to hear the feedback from those that subscribe to the High Plains Journal. I grew up reading the magazine and am very proud of it. I am a U.S. Custom Harvester and an ag journalist during harvest. During the harvest off-season, I haul grain locally and hire the crew for Schemper Harvesting. I am also an insurance agent and write home, auto, life, farm, crop, and business insurance policies. I am also a third-party CDL tester.

Janel Schemper can be reached at [email protected]

Stephanie Cronje

With the help of a few unexpected calls and texts, it came to my attention that this will be my 10th year contributing to the All Aboard Wheat Harvest program. Oh, the places I have been and the things I have seen—not to mention all that has changed in those 10 years. There is something in my writing style that shifts when addressing my AAWH family. This is where it all began. My writing journey started with AAWH so I definitely feel most comfortable on this platform. Thanks for sticking with me this whole decade.

For those of you who may be reading my nonsense for the first time, my name is Stephanie (Osowski) Cronje, a third-generation custom harvester. Even though Osowski Ag Service no longer physically makes the trip down south along the Wheat Belt, I assure you our hearts make the trip every single year on complete and total autopilot.

I know with absolute certainty that we will all get that itch to pack up and head south by the middle of May every year for the rest of our forever. All our best stories and memories were made on that dusty harvest trail and I’m still on the fence about writing a book about all the colorful hired hands, mishaps, triumphs, and wonderful people we met throughout those years.

Well, I might as well start with the best news of all. Cronje, party of three, will become a party of four come August. A wheat harvest baby—could we have planned it any better? From where I’m standing, yes, because I have already told my mom that she needs to move into our house for the first week or so after baby girl Cronje makes her appearance since I will be a harvest widow by that time.

As for the Cronje family, my husband, Pieter, is in his fourth year as farm manager for Weinlaeder Farms, located just east of Grafton. I began two work-from-home positions last summer. One is with Eyford Ridge Seed selling Golden Harvest corn and soybeans as well as Nuseed sunflowers and canola. The other is as a part-time reporter for our local newspaper, the Walsh County Record. Our almost toddler, Jack (who will be 1 on May 23), and I get to spend our days together. I’m confident he will be selling seed by the time he’s 5.

My dad, Bob, went back to his roots and is running loader at American Crystal Sugar as he did that same job when I was growing up in the winter months when our harvest run was complete. My mom, Loree, is still painting and wallpapering the whole county and beyond with her bestie, Bernice, as well as managing all her rental properties in Grafton. My brother, Brandon, is running loader loading sugar beet trucks for Transystems in the winter months and then he will be full-time on the farm during the summer and early fall months. Osowski Ag Service is very much alive and well except now, rather than doing very much custom work, we harvest our own crops.

I really can’t tell you all when harvest will be and planting has only just begun around here. Not a single field was planted in the Grafton area until the last 24 hours. Between the late winter blizzards and the excessive spring rains we received in late March and throughout April and May, the rivers have risen and have most of the acreage in the county completely submerged.

The water levels are higher than anyone has ever seen them and as good as I am at making things sound better than they are, there isn’t a whole lot I can do to sugarcoat the situation farmers are finding themselves in. With crop insurance dates fast approaching and the water not going anywhere, it will continue to be a spring of surprises.

Anyway, there isn’t anything we can do but do what we can when we can. The crops will go in no matter how much later it gets and as always, I look forward to sharing another harvest season with you all. After 10 years, it would be weird to not share a harvest season with you all.

Stephanie Cronje can be reached at [email protected].