They are leviathans swimming through an ocean of wheat; large mechanized animals devouring every golden leaf, stem, head, and kernel of grain in sight. They belch huge plumes of dust that cloud the sky and paint they sky and moon a strange hue of orange at sunset. These are the signs that it is now harvest time here in north central Montana.
Industry and nature collide during harvest time. Having grown up on a farm in southern Wisconsin I was accustomed to some of the more rustic aspects of agriculture. Small farms, small tractors, and men and their boys growing corn and relatively small herds of cows in America’s Dairyland. But here in America’s bread basket, as I stand in the middle of a wheat field making photos of Montana wheat farming there are five, six, and sometimes even seven beasts at a time consume all of the wheat around me. Each of which cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars brand new. Harvesting wheat, it seems, is light on the idyllic and heavy on the big business. Much bigger than the small dairy farm where I grew up.
I don’t think I am trying to minimize the beauty of it all. There is something dazzling about these large red and green combines performing their choreographed dance across Montana’s wheat fields. The sun is slung low over the horizon, which is clouded with the dust and fumes kicked up by the constant movement of the combines. It casts a creamy hue of amber over everything in sight.
I drove for a hundred of miles or more at the start of the season a few weeks ago and the scene was the same everywhere you looked. Aside from the hard working men and women operating the combines and driving the trucks and trailers over the fields, I was one of the very few people for miles around. And as I stood there just before dusk on that quiet Saturday evening I wondered…there can’t possibly be enough grain bins and elevators in the entire state of Montana to store it all. Where on Earth does all of the grain go?
The harvest of winter wheat will soon be over. Spring wheat is next on deck. And there’s also barely, canola, mustard, and more. And before these farmers are done as the cold autumn winds begin to swirl, I hope to have many, many more photos of agriculture and farming to add to my collection. Despite all of the dust and the constant need to blow it from my camera, it is an enjoyable time. It is quite a sight to behold.