A drone photo of the A-Team Harvesting crew cutting wheat in Tioga, N.D. 

On a cool, crisp September morning, Justin Ashmore, owner/operator of A-Team Harvesting 2, LLC, climbed into the seat of his Case IH combine. It’s another day in the wheat fields of the Northern Plains, and after cutting wheat since May, the end of the summer wheat run is finally in sight.

“We are trying to get wrapped up here. We are in our last little bit of durum. In fact, we’ve already loaded one machine and the boys just got back from Kansas,” Justin said during a phone interview on Sept. 15.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, Justin estimated there was about 400 acres of durum wheat left to harvest. He reported the crew was pushing into some green wheat, so it may be a few days before they could complete the task, but he estimated that by the end of that week or the beginning of the following week the crew would be harvesting soybeans in Kansas.

It is a bit of a process, Justin says, to move an entire harvesting crew a few hundred miles from Tioga, N.D., to Logan, Kan. In addition, thus far the combines have all been set up to harvest small grains. The concaves on all the machines will have to be switched around to accommodate the fall crops now.

All and all, mechanic wise, Justin says things have all ran pretty smoothly for the 2020 season. The rocks around Tioga are a bit of a challenge, and unfortunately an ingested rock tore up a header pretty badly, but Justin keeps it all in perspective by saying “it is just one of those deals.”

In general, the A-Team crew is fairly self-sustaining when it comes to mechanics and machine maintenance. The crew runs a well-equipped service truck as part of their entourage and Justin proudly says all the guys on his crew are none too afraid to turn a wrench if need be.

Inevitably there comes a time, or a situation, where the breakdown or mechanical repair necessary is beyond the jack-of-all-trades mechanics on the A-Team crew, however. At that point, the experts dispatched from Case IH and MacDon are called.

“A lot of people don’t know, but we have support trailers that follow the custom harvest crews. We deal with MacDon Support for our headers and Case IH ProHarvest for our combines,” Justin explained.

As the custom harvest crews move north, chasing ripened wheat, it is not uncommon for them to end up in areas where the local dealerships maybe don’t deal that many combines, so therefore, their mechanics and techs are not familiar with them. The support trailers dispatched from MacDon and Case IH only deal with harvest equipment. The support trailers come in and stage a wide area, offering mechanical assistance to those in need.

Justin says the crews are absolute lifesavers, especially when accidents happen – like ingesting a rock that damages the header and all the electronics between the header and the combine.

With the 2020 wheat season drawing to a close, Justin has mixed feelings. Sure he is beyond excited to be home and to see his kids, but cutting wheat, he will tell you, is his calling.

“I’m ready for the end, but I love cutting wheat, it’s in my blood,” Justin added.

For some this harvest season may have lagged on but Justin feels like it went by fast. Unlike 2019’s nightmare harvest, Justin is so very happy about the way things are going this year for his customers in Tioga, so the season is ending on a good note.

“I am just so happy for the guys around here. We are actually able to get something in their bins this year,” he said.

Once in Kansas, the A-Team crew will first be at work harvesting early-planted corn and soybeans. By Sept. 25, they will split the crew with some combines harvesting milo around Scotts City, Kan., and the other half of the crew continuing harvest around Logan, Kan.

Once the fall crops are harvested, Justin will be busy with cow work and then, before he knows it, it will be spring 2021 and the wheat run will be ready to start again.

We would like to thank Justin Ashmore and the entire A-Team Harvesting 2, LLC, crew for giving our readers an inside look into their custom combining operation this harvest season. We wish them nothing but success with their harvest runs in the future.