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Family harvest time reaps rewards PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

Holyoke’s economy is made up of all the common sectors of business, but farming is perhaps what this area is best known for. And it’s not all hired hands and large operations. Many farms around Holyoke are run by the family, and that can mean everyone in the family.

Harvest is a time to reap the bounty of one’s crops, but it is also a time to further sow the seeds of the family. It is the time of year when the work schedule can cover a full rotation of the clock — or more — but it offers a chance to bond with those dear to the heart over a passion that is dear to the heart as well.

“The kids have helped with the harvest over the years and always made it fun,” Jan Millage said. “But it was mainly Steve and Adam this year.”

Millage said they completed their harvest of more than 1,000 acres of corn Friday, Oct. 17. Since they don’t have hired help, her husband Steve is the one who does all the pre-harvest prep work on the farming machinery.

They feel fortunate that one child or another — this year being their son Adam — was available to put in the long hours helping when the time came to hit the fields. And she was always ready and willing to do her part also.

“If they needed parts or meals, I was always on standby,” Millage said. “And I would help move equipment from one section to another and drive them back and forth across the fields.”

Sometimes not everyone is available, but other times the whole extended family gets in on the action. However the crew pans out, family always comes through and works until the job gets done.

“We all love it,” Angie Powell said. “In what other profession can the whole family be involved everywhere from in a minimal aspect to on a grand scale?”

Powell gets quite the family crew together during harvest time — her dad Mark Clayton and stepmom Jean; her brother Justin Clayton, his wife Ashley and their son Levi; and her husband Aaron and their two sons, Mason and Riley.

Brothers Riley and Mason Powell, pictured at left and center, and their cousin Levi Clayton sit on the snout of a combine out in one of the family’s fields. The boys are starting to learn the ways of the farming lifestyle, and helping with harvest wherever they can, so that one day they can be an integral part of the family operation.

Jean Clayton said she loves to see the boys’ enthusiasm when it comes to following their dads and grandpa.

“There have been times where all three boys have fallen asleep on the combine,” Clayton said. “They get a kick out of all of it. Beings that they’re all boys, they probably really enjoy it more.”

The old adage “don’t hire your family” may run true in some professions, but farming tends to be different from other lines of work in many regards. It can be very beneficial to have one’s own kin — kids, siblings, nephews and nieces, etc. — around to help, especially when they have grown up learning and experiencing the family’s ideals and work ethic.

Powell said she could talk for hours about the beauty of everybody working together during harvest.

“It’s a wonderful time, and everyone has tons of fun,” Powell said. “There’s just a different vibe that you don’t get in any other setting.”

She spoke about different family members driving combines and grain carts and taking meals out to the fields at night so the workers don’t have to eat when they get home late.

“Especially during the summer wheat harvest, we set up tables and spread out food,” Powell said. “Everyone stops and eats together and gets to enjoy more family time.”

In a family operation, everyone lends a hand. Whether it’s making lines in the fields, hauling loads, cooking meals, washing clothes, coordinating schedules, making supply runs, tending to the kids, lifting spirits or supervising the whole operation, each member of the family has a certain place where he or she can contribute.

In a family operation such as theirs, the Powells and Claytons aren’t just growing crops, they are also growing the next generation of family farmers.

Powell said she tries to get her sons, Mason, 7, and Riley, 6, out to the fields every evening during harvest to get in on as much of the experience as possible.

“My boys are learning yields, percentages, techniques and all kinds of other things,” Powell said. “They say they want to be farmers when they grow up! So I figure why not have them start to learn about these things now?”

Powell further described the enthusiasm her boys have when school gets out and it’s time to head out to the fields.

“They absolutely love getting dressed for the fields and want to get out there as quickly as possible,” Powell said. “They fight over who gets to ride with Dad first, but they are simply excited to emulate their father, the farmer.”

When corn harvest season comes around, the daylight hours might be getting a little bit shorter, but the working hours probably aren’t.

“Harvest time makes for long days and keeps the men away from home,” Clayton said. “When everyone takes part, it’s a great way for the little ones to hang out with their dad. And a nice way for him to also spend time with his spouse.”

Farming as a family bolsters a deep respect for each other and what each individual brings to the farm to make it successful.

“I think family farms are all about pride, honor and respect,” Powell said. “Pride in the work that you individually put in, pride in what others have done before you and pride in what the future holds for our children.”

So when the bountiful bushels come pouring in, or even if the yields are not as promising and there aren’t as many people to share the duties, be thankful for the family that endures through each season.

And remember these simple words from Thomas Jefferson, who was quite the farmer back in his day: “The happiest moments of my life have been those which I have passed in the company of my family.”

Holyoke Enterprise October 30, 2014