Fall is "Go Time" for Farmers!

As autumn arrives and cooler air greets us each morning, farmers get ready for their busiest time of year. The long hours, intense planning and family effort are well worth it to see months of hard work come to a bountiful close.

The Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) recently connected with Tarin Tiefenthaler who farms with her family near Carroll. Tarin shares what harvest is all about for her family and what a day in the life looks like during this busy time.

Ryan and Tarin Tiefenthaler farm near Carroll. Photo credit: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association

Iowa FFP: When do you know it’s time to start harvesting?

Tarin: We hand shell the middle of an ear of corn and run it through a tester to measure its moisture content. This tells us if it’s dry enough to begin harvesting. With soybeans, we split the bean in half and pinch it between our teeth to see how chewy it is, which indicates moisture. We want it to be pretty dry before we start the bean harvest! With rye, we roll it between our hands to see if the seed will easily part from the head of the plant.

Iowa FFP: You’re harvesting a bit earlier than usual this year. Why?

Tarin: We had quite a bit of damage from the derecho in early August. We will harvest ahead of normal to try to save the damaged crops from getting too brittle in colder weather. If they get too brittle, the bean pods can shatter. The hot and dry temperatures in August progressed the crop, as well.

Iowa FFP: What does a typical harvest day look like for you?

Tarin: We wake up earlier than usual, and the first thing I do is make breakfast sandwiches and pack lunches. We make sure chores are done and then it’s time to check equipment. We blow out air filters, make sure fuel tanks are full and ensure whatever crop we’re harvesting that day has a storage bin ready to go on our farm. We stay out all day and don’t stop for meals, so we have to have a lunch and supper that’s quick and easy. Like any good packed lunch, its already eaten by 9 a.m. so it’s helpful to have a runner who can bring something out to us. A few people help us out after they are done with their jobs in town, especially when we go late into the evening.

Iowa FFP: Where do your crops go after they’re harvested?

Tarin: Our corn goes into our bins until we sell it to an ethanol plant or feed it to our livestock. We raise specialty soybeans for various companies and since we have our own facility that allows us to clean and process here at home, our beans stay and we process them for the seed companies.

Iowa FFP: Do you have safety measures in place during harvest?

Tarin: Safety is extremely important to me. My kids must wear neon clothing, and if a truck or trailer is pulling into our yard, they have to have a hand on a building. I have three daughters and they all know they need to make eye contact with us to make sure we see them when we’re driving equipment. Communication is incredibly important, so we radio each other if we have a kid riding with us. We also try not to go too far into the night and get good sleep, drink plenty of water and do stretches to keep our bodies healthy.

Iowa FFP: What’s important for non-farmers to know during harvest?

Tarin: I always tell people that if big machinery is moving slowly on the road, it is to keep them and you safe, so please be patient! I also want people to know how much pride we take in a harvest. My husband loves running the combine because it means getting to see the end result of our labor. Harvest is just a beautiful time to see it all come full circle. I always say it’s hard work, but it’s heart work.

Iowa FFP: Do you have any go-to harvest recipes or meals?

Tarin: Yes! Egg sandwiches with bacon or a sausage patty. We like to dress it up with pepper jack cheese. Otherwise any hearty dish, like goulash or a casserole, is perfect for long days. And I never met a brownie or cookie I didn’t like!