How Do Farm Wives Survive Fall Harvest?

Fall Harvest Season – A Tale of Two Farm Wives 

Linsey\’s Story

Fall is already here! Pumpkin patches and apple orchards are full of families with kids in wagons and couples in cute flannel shirts and riding boots taking photos in front of hay and pumpkins. Fall is also always full of rustic, warm weddings and celebrations.

Not for us.

Farm Wives

Fall takes on a different meaning when you farm, especially as a new farmer\’s wife. Fall used to be my favorite season because of all those things. Now I think it is one of my least desired seasons.

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What does fall mean to me and why has it fallen into the least desirable season in my life?

I met my now husband at the beginning of my college junior year. I didn\’t know much about him yet and we didn\’t start dating until the winter. That\’s when I found out he was from a real farm. Still, no clue about what all that entailed. At first, I didn\’t understand why he couldn\’t just leave work in the fall for a couple of hours to do these fall things with me, but I was so consumed in college life that I filled that void with homework and hanging out with friends.

We’ve been out of college three years now and married for two years; I can tell you fall hasn\’t really gotten any easier. Fall for farmers means combine cleaning, hydraulic fluid on the jeans, beans in my wash machine, cowboy boots covered in dust, and very late nights. Because of that, people sometimes refer to us wives as “farmers widows,” we can literally go days without seeing our husbands in the daylight. I do know that every time before I become a “widow” I tell myself that it’ll be different this year; that I’ve prepared myself mentally and emotionally.

Then, it comes . . .

The first few days aren’t so bad, but the days turn into weeks and I just long for eating dinner at our table together at 6:30 pm, taking the dog for a walk together, and getting ready for bed and tucking in at 10:00 pm.  I am one who looks somewhere for guidance and find myself googling “How do farm wives survive the fall?” you really find nothing. There is no instruction manual or a For Dummies book for this one either.

So what do farm wives do?

One thing I have found is that cooking a lot of field food keeps me occupied and his belly full on these long nights. I like to find a good show on Netflix that has a lot of seasons. It’ll help on those nights you\’re laying in bed and just can’t sleep. A big one for us without kids–a dog…I know, I know, I am that crazy dog lady, but it truly helps to have that living, breathing snuggler to walk with, play with, and provide kisses.

Last harvest our two-year-old dog we got when we moved from college to our new home was hit by a grain semi-truck. So harvest this year is taking another unfavorable feeling. We got our new dog, Duke, in November.  Having him with me is something I know my husband is comforted with. Another thing that helps, but can be difficult when being “new” to this, is finding something that you can do with groups of people or being able to surround yourself with people. Working at a dance studio I get to surround myself with little giggles and adults that go through the same long nights. You can find comfort in the commonalities and having silly, down to earth conversations with kids.

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Home-based business

A different thing for us this year is that I started my own home-based business and quit my day job. I work my own hours and can stay up later and be more available if my husband comes home early or on a rainy day.  Lastly, but definitely not least, take one of those harvest meals to the tractor, push the dog up in the cab, download a movie on the iPad and connect it to the speakers, bring a blanket and a pillow and you have what you want, but in a much different setting.

Feeding America

Sometimes you have to adjust to feed America and in time, it may become a little easier. All I can say is if you do see a farm wife try to give advice, invite them over for some coffee, and just open your doors to them; it is an unpredictable and tough life to get use to. I think it can be said that God surely chooses strong women to fill those shoes and be a partner to those who farm.

Wanda\’s Story

Like Linsey, I never grew up on a farm and I learned about farming from the bottom–the very bottom. We share some commonalities during the harvest season. It truly is a very busy season where our days start in the early morning and go until late at night. In fact, one night last week, I walked into the house after midnight. We try not to make staying out that late a habit, but it happens.

One thing that is different between Linsey and me are our roles on the farm. Every farm family is different in how their farms are operated. While I am not in the pig barns, I do help with spring and fall crop farming. And I have graduated to combine operator, which I love! Linsey is a newlywed and she helps support her family\’s farm in a different way. But one thing we know is farm wives are important to our farms.

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I love fall!

I love the fall weather – especially early fall — it is my favorite season. The temperatures are mild and the humidity is now a memory. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of fall doesn\’t go past sitting in the combine. While others are carving and placing pumpkins near their front doorsteps, relishing pumpkin lattes from Starbucks, enjoying the season change by watching leaves turn yellow and orange, purchasing fresh apples from a local apple orchard to make apple crisp or simply visiting a fall craft show, I am harvesting corn. 

As someone married to a farmer, I know this is the sacrifice I made and I did so willingly. Yes, I am envious of those that can truly enjoy this time of year. But I also know as a farmer, I am given the privilege of raising and growing food and I truly am appreciative and humbled God allows me to do that. 

Another difficulty I have as the combine operator is meal time. Prior to fall I prepared a lot of great freezer meals. But because I am in the combine, the meals don\’t automatically come out of the freezer and deliver themselves. And if I quit combining to make meals, the farm work stops. It\’s like an assembly line – if no corn is harvested by the combine, no corn is delivered to the corn dryer or corn bin. And the people who are performing those jobs have to stop also. In fact, there are a number of things most people don\’t realize about harvest. 

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Most of our farms are in close proximity of our home so there are times that we just stop and go eat in the house. Thank goodness for microwaves! Other times, my wonderful mother-in-law prepares us a harvest lunch delivered in ice cream pails. Did I say she makes the best harvest meals? And, lastly, something unique (although I thought every area did this) in our area is the number of ag-related businesses who deliver us a meal in the field. They literally drive out to the field we are in and deliver. As a farmer, this is just plain awesomeness! Sometimes it\’s a sack lunch, sometimes it\’s a hot meal prepared by a local restaurant and sometimes we may have a grilled pork chop on-a-stick. No matter what it is, we are so appreciative for harvest meals.

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So how do I survive the fall harvest? Because we are both working so closely together we spend a lot of time together. We go on \”parts run\” dates and if it rains, we have some free time to go to a movie or just stay home to catch our breath. We make the best of it. 

Both Linsey and I know we are making sacrifices during the fall harvest season, but we also feel blessed for our husbands, our families and the life we live. Feeding America is a farmer\’s life goal and besides that. I give free combine rides!

If you are a farmer, I would love to hear from you in the comment section. Do you feel the same or do you have other thoughts? How do you juggle your roles?

  

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24 Comments

  1. This is great article! I didn’t grow up on a farm either but after 25 years of marriage I think I’ve got the hang of it! My roles as a farm wife vary from day to day, year to year. We grow sugarbeets on our farm so that’s a whole different story, starts October 1, weather permitting, this year, it’s been too warm, beets need to be 65° or below to store, and then we had rain, hoping to try dig tomorrow, the mud makes for a slow time. I could go on about beet harvest it’s truly the most trying time on our farm. Its always nice when its finished. Happy Harvest!

    1. Thanks Julie! Just curious, do you farm in Minnesota? And, yes, we not only juggle different jobs on the farm but also off the farm. I buy groceries for my dad who lives in an assisted living facility, take care of grandkids, etc. Lots of different hats!

  2. Great article Wanda and Linsey! As mentioned, we all have different roles during harvest. In addition to farming 1650 acres of corn and soybeans, we also run the local elevator on our farm, which I do most of the unloading and drying corn. We are also a seed agency, which requires weighing test plots, assisting farmers with calibrating yield monitors…not to mention it’s early order season for purchasing next year’s seed! Our daughter keeps us fed and sane! She and the 3 grand kids are a great support system for our busy farm.

  3. Love this article! I am a farmer’s wife and a farmer’s daughter and a farmer myself. My husband and I are both the combine drivers (at least when my dad has other things to do!)… My husband farms with his dad and a few others and I farm with my dad and my brother, which makes it difficult for us to get much time together during the spring and fall. We try to make the best of it too. We wouldn’t want to live anyway it anywhere else!

  4. This article is very spot on. I grew up on the country – my dad farmed until I was about 10 – but I still wasn’t very prepared to be a farm wife. We have corn, soy beans and sugar beets and the beets add several hours to the work load each year. We actually lived in town, 20 miles from our farm, for the first 10 years we were married. As newlyweds I grew to enjoy the time to myself to catch up on TV shows and do some extra projects. Once we had kids it was a whole different story. This “farm widow” was also a “single mom” to three little ones several months out of the year. Now that we live on the farm things are much easier, but I’m still struggling to find my planting/harvest “routine” now that I don’t have long evenings to myself for several days. I enjoy helping my hubby out whenever I can, whether it’s moving equipment or delivering a hot meal!

    1. This makes my heart happy. It is generally hard to find that happy medium. We, also, live in town {about 16 miles} since his parents still live on the farm and his brother lives one mile from it. We are the youngest of the family and I have had a “different” life leading up to this, so easing into it is probably best. I am attaching myself to this community that he went to school in and have received a mini-grant to represent our rural town and the state of Minnesota in the fellowship, so it has made me even more busy at this time as well, help fill the down time. Like it says, I am a home based business owner, interior design graduate; a dance teacher, and belong to some groups to stay busy. Not exactly the most stereotypical farm wife as some tell me.
      Times change and I love seeing husband wife power couple farmers, but that just isn’t our life and I long for more of just farming. In these times as well, farming just doesn’t always sustain a family or the lives we want to lead. Finding that every year harvest routine is something I am really struggling to find–haha.
      Thanks for your story, it gives me a spec of what life can be like in the future. <3

  5. I have been a farmers wife for 34 years. I love harvest season and dare I say it…I like it that my husband puts in weeks and weeks of hard days and late nights. I have 3 married kids and 3 kids still at home. Two boys playing football every night, homework, making meals to run to the field, etc. It’s crazy busy but I’m always a little sad to see it come to an end. I didn’t grow up on a farm and had no clue what I was in for but we are also Dairy farmers and in the early years my husband spent 8 hours a day just milking not to mention all the other farm work. I have always loved the farm life and also I don’t mind being alone…but I never am! ?. This was an interesting article, people don’t realize the sacrifice farmers and their families make to feed the world!

  6. Thanks for sharing your stories~ Having grown up on a beef/sheep farm, and marrying into a dairy farm, I find the harvest much more pressurized. Working harvest around milking is a new challenge and requires all family and older children to contribute. Quite often we will get school age kids to bed, leave one older child to watch, and go back to the fields for another round of combining.

  7. I am a farm wife and mom to 4 children. My kids are active in sports and knew signing up to play their dad wouldn’t get to see many if any of their games. That was harder for me then the kids, but I grew up with my dad being at everything. Sometimes I get asked if I’m really married because my husband is never at the games and I say yep I’m proudly married to a farmer and they tell me I couldn’t do it, I reply well good thing he’s my husband and not yours then huh! I am in charge of all their harvest meals and we spend our suppers with my husband in the field and the kids get to see dad for a little bit. While my older kids are in school I help with harvesting and our littlest one spends her day playing on the combine floor with her toys and snacks. During harvest I am also in charge of all the animal chores, we have cows, pigs, horses, chickens, and ducks. fall use to be my favorite time of year for the pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and decorating my front porch all cute. Now my porch never gets done, pumpkin patches are missed, and apple orchards only happen for school field trips but the minute fall hits and the excitement my kids get about the combine coming out makes my falls so happy and memorable. I wouldn’t go back to city love, I love being a farmers wife. Nights I go home and the husband stays in the field I keep myself occupied from missing him so much. Proud to be a farm family

    1. Oh, Jessica, I love your response! You hit it on the head. We do make sacrifices but, yet, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. I truly feel God specifically placed me here. I never wanted to marry a farmer, but I did. So glad I did.

    2. I enjoyed reading these comments! I to did not grow up on a farm, but have been married 35 years to my hard working farmer, we crop farm and have had dairy and now have beef! Feeder cattle and its long days and at times stressful! But we love what we do and our grandkids love coming to the farm!

  8. My husband and I love on a farm in Minnesota. I grew up on a farm, but it was different when my dad was busy vs. My husband being busy…i was so involved in activities when I was in high school that I don’t think I noticed the business or the alone time my mom had. However my mom does run the grain cart and I would help chop corn stalks occasionally. But my husband’s job is very different… he and his brother run a manure hauling business and they pump about 80 hog barns for people around the area in the fall. This means he can’t get in the field until others start getting their crop out. This fall, we just got 7 inches of rain and most farmers don’t have much crop out, so we are bringing the cows home early because when the weather is right to haul, they want to be able to go. The hardest thing about his job is the pressure of the weather and the pressure from others because their pits are full and it needs to go somewhere! If it freezes, we can’t haul anymore because we dig it in the ground, so fall is verrrrrry long (usually up to thanksgiving or later if the weather cooperates) and they don’t stop for anything. If it rains, then they work with the cows or hogs at home. They usually run until about 3-4 at night and sleep for a few short hours and start another long day. I don’t see my husband for about 3 months unless he wakes me up or I go ride in the tractor when I bring a meal (which is a very smelly tractor date). Luckily for me, my mom, mother in law and sisters in law are all farm wives and we keep busy together, like our annual outlet mall shopping trip! I hate fall, but I also understand the need and payoff for the long hours and we make it work.

  9. I am also a farm wife and married for 18 years this July. It’s me and my husband. That’s it. My son is 14, and becoming a very big help, and I am so grateful for that. However, he also has homework to get done and school to attend, so that limits his time to help. We also have a wonderful 8 year old girl who is not as into the tractor rides as her brother was at that age. It’s a lot of juggling, I also work a 30 hour a week job, that thankfully lets me take off for farm work. This is HUGE! My job doesn’t quit there, but they are accommodating enough to know that I will come in and get it done whenever I can. So while you are able to go for parts runs and enjoy a rainy day at home, I am going back to work to catch up. The struggle that I have daily is making sure the kids get home and get their homework done while I am running the loads to town or home in the bins. Meals are another struggle, while my son can make a hot pocket or mac and cheese, that is not enough for us to get by on, so sandwiches are it usually for us. You are right, how in the world does one make a good meal when they are busy in the field with their husbands?! I asked one time for suggestions of Facebook, and people told me that you need to stop for a meal. Obviously they just don’t understand. So I have found that adding little extras like avocados to my sandwiches make me happy. It’s the simple things right?! I love the winter (which I never did before) because we are able to be in the house and have that much needed family time that we miss out on during spring or fall. It’s very wet in SW MN this year, and we have yet to get going. So while the “harvest moods” set in, we just keep trying to stay positive and remember that everyone is in the same boat, and hopefully the good Lord will shine upon us for another safe season!

    1. I hear what you are saying. The first 20 years of our marriage, I had a full-time off the farm job. And it is hard to juggle what is happening on the farm and kids and meals. I had three girls and at times felt really guilty during fall because I was never home. I guess we do what we need to do. And it works. And you are right, try to remain positive.

  10. This is a great article! I grew up a farmer’s daughter! I had the privilege to farm with my Dad while my husband worked off the farm. Juggling roles of Mom of 3 kids, being the cook truck driver and running the plow made for many long days. Now I’m a Grandma, my husband and son farm together. I have the role of head cook and parts delivery person. I really miss working in the field with my Dad. It’s a lonely life being a farmers wife. But it’s a good life. We know the value of patiences, hard work, and faith. I knew what I was getting into when I married a farmer. I’m so very blessed 🙏

  11. I’m a 3rd generation farmer, and my husband and I operate my family farm. I never thought we’d be doing this because I’m the youngest of 3, and my older brother and sister were in the operation with my Dad. But when they both got divorced, they left the farm and moved away, and we became the operators, basically by default! And we were sooooo happy to be “it”! My husband always dreamed of farming, and we had helped them with labor over the years. So I began helping by being a hauler. I drove a JD 4640 with 2 wagons (a “set”) from the field to the bin site where I lined up the wagon(s), started the auger tractor and unloaded each wagon into the bin, and then drove empties back to the field for another load. Oh, the stories I have about that!, including one where my back tire came off the wagon and rolled past me in the tractor while hauling a full load down the highway! It didn’t turn out as bad as you may expect, but it was scary! Eventually, when we bought another combine, I got promoted to combine driver, and it’s been my dream job for about 15 years now! So many stories of crazy things that happen on the farm…I should write a book! I also prepare and freeze meals ahead of harvest so I can pull them out a day ahead of time to thaw in the fridge since there’s no time for cooking. We eat sandwiches and chips for lunch pretty much every day which I prepare in the morning, along with drinks for 2 people for 10 hours a day since we don’t stop for lunch, before heading out to the field. I count on rain days to go to the grocery store and catch up on cleaning and laundry. And yes! I miss the pumpkin festivals and all that goes along with the beautiful weather this time of year. We have had to miss many weddings (even of kids of close friends) because we just can’t stop the harvest for a social life. It just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes my friends will say “you can’t even take one day off!?!?” The answer is always the same. No we can’t. Not when it’s good weather and we have crops to get out. It could start raining at any time and not stop… Side note: we’ve been out of the field due to rain for 10 days straight and just got back in today and we still have over 800 acres of beans to cut. So yes, we do sacrifice and work long hours this time of year. But I grew up on a farm and know this is how it is, and I’m also really proud to be a farmer and know I’m making a difference in people’s lives by helping contribute to putting food on the world’s table. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! 🙂

    1. Oh, I can relate to the many things you talk about! We as farm women and men are so unique in many ways and it is hard to explain to that are not involved in farming. Thanks again for the reply!

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