Hoffman Harvesting Black hills

Great views and scenery as equipment is moved through the badlands of South Dakota, but the hills and heat make the move difficult. Photo by Jada Bulgin.

BOWDLE, S.D. – The last of the winter wheat is coming off of the fields in western South Dakota as everyone waits for the spring wheat to get ready for harvest. For a little while, the Hoffman Harvesting crew will be able to use the Hoffman farm in Bowdle, S.D., as its base of operation.

“We have machines in Phillips and Gettysburg, S.D.,” said Jada Bulgin of Hoffman Harvesting on Aug. 1. “We're running about three or four machines.”

There are about 145 miles between Phillips and Gettysburg, with Phillips being to the southwest. Bowdle is another 45 miles north and a little east of Gettysburg. That leaves a lot of country for the crew to cover.

“All we are cutting is winter wheat. We're waiting on the spring wheat to get ready, but it's still got quite a bit of green in it,” said Jada. “We're a little concerned because it seems to be behind North Dakota’s wheat.”

Logistically, it is not ideal to harvest the North Dakota crop first, but it really isn’t up to the harvesters to say when the crop is ready.

Right now, the crew is split between two locations, Phillips and Gettysburg. Phillips will likely be done by the time North Dakota is ready to go.

“We'll be split up a different way when it’s ready,” she said. “When your harvester, you’ve got to learn to run with the punches and just make everything work. It's not always perfect. You can't make a perfect summer and it's different every year.”

On the bright side, the wheat harvest has been phenomenal across the Midwest.

In Phillips, yields are running around 60 plus bushels per acre. The protein content is around 12 percent and moisture levels are good.

They are starting to get a few scattered showers in the area.

“The field conditions are starting to get a little testy because it seems to be sprinkling every other day,” she said. “That's when weeds can come through, troubles can arise, and it gets to be tougher cutting.”

The crop in Gettysburg is doing as well, if not better than Phillips with yield ranging from 60-90 bushels. Quality remains high.

“The farmers have been blessed with rain at the right time and it's just been a wonderful crop all around. I'm hoping it'll continue that way into the fall harvest,” said Jada. “There's a lot more fall crop and it's looking great so far.”

While Jada and her husband, Leon, are back on the home farm for a while, they have a chance to get some things done there before moving onto the next stop. They’ve got about two weeks to help out as much as they can before leaving again.

“We try to get as much done as we can to make it easier for people that are left behind,” she said. “In this instance, it's usually my dad.”

They also have one full-time employee that is strictly farm help.

This time of year, there is no shortage of on-farm work. In addition to getting equipment and machinery ready for their personal harvest season, hay needs to get cut and baled and the 500 cow/calf pairs on pasture need to be checked.

“We're going to do any repairs on our machinery and our trucks that needs to be done. It’s just a lot of maintenance,” she said. “When you have that many wheels on the road, there's always maintenance.”

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