(gmo) labeling the harvest

photo 2 (8) - CopyBefore I begin, I want to add a disclaimer to the pictures I’m using. Although this is about GMO foods, I don’t have many pictures of fall harvest (corn & soybeans) so most involve wheat. There is no GMO wheat in our food system.

The 2014 midterm elections are now history. Thank goodness! I am so glad my landline phone is now quiet again and the signs that cluttered up the landscape have been removed…until next time.

What isn’t over is the GMO labeling debate. This, too, gets tiresome to see on my social media. I understand the concern of the public…sort of. I understand that if I were afraid of something, I would want to be sure there were warnings to make me aware of the danger. Signs in the mountains to alert me of the danger of bears, labels on chemicals I have stored under my sink that could cause death if ingested, the signs on the combine that indicate possible loss of limbs or death if you fall into the header while in motion. All of these signs warn me of dangers that are certain.

GMO labeling is not certain. As a matter of fact, according to the research that I’ve seen, most of science has made all effort to make people aware that under the past 19 years of scrupulous testing, there is nothing stating that GMO foods cause health issues. I’ve even read several stories of people who did their darndest (Midwest talk) to sway people away from GMO’s who have now changed their mind due to the science. Labels and signs verify danger. Labeling GMO foods will support the fears of the misinformed. They will also encourage people’s thinking that if there are labels, there must be something to be afraid of. And, from what I understand, there is already food that has labeling in place that can support this claim – it’s called organic.

Trying to convince you that GMO labeling is unnecessary is not the reason for this post. The need to write is to express my opinion about something I read prior to the elections regarding GMO labeling. A statement I recently read on a Facebook debate made me realize people don’t really understand what it will take to put that label on their box of Corn Flakes.


 (These old pictures in the corn field are of my Grandpa and his combines)harvest2-001

The comment was something along the lines of, “how expensive could it be to put a label on food”? Now, I don’t claim to know everything about the process of labeling but what I can tell you is the common sense reality of what it takes to get grain from the field to market. Beyond that, I haven’t a clue.  If GMO labeling becomes a reality, the expense it will take to make this happen WILL be passed along to the consumer. Are you questioning why yet?  In October 2000,  David S. Bullock, Marion Desquilbet and Elisavet I. Nitsi coauthored an article (The Economics of Non-GMO Segregation and Identity Preservation) which can better explain the economics involved with labeling. I can explain the harvest as I see it and live it.

Let me tell you what I see happening in our industry and most of Ag if this happens. The segregation of GMO from Non-GMO products will be based on a tolerance policy put in place by the government. This will mean that a certain percent of GMO product, dust or residue will be allowed for the Non-GMO label. This will require certification. As a custom harvester, I see this as a major issue for our industry. Let me try to explain by beginning with our first farmer customer who raises GMO corn (an example).

The combine will harvest that grain and dump it in the semi to be hauled to the elevator.  Once the grain is delivered to the elevator, the grain probe will check for moisture and any foreign matter.  This probe is used to test each load that crosses the scale.  It will then be dumped into a pit and augured into the holding silo until either a train or another truck hauls it away to the next step in the process. The scenario that I just provided puts that grain in at least seven different locations…combine, truck, probe, pit, auger, silo and train/truck.

img_0476Step 1 – Grain is harvested.

img_1240Step 2 – Grain is unloaded from the combine to the truck which will haul it either to the on-farm storage or elevator.

img_2460On-farm storage or grain bin.

img_0447Step 3 – Hauling the grain to the elevator.


img_2222Waiting in line to approach the scale. The red truck is sitting on the scale weighing his empty truck to calculate how much wheat was hauled to the elevator.

img_2065Step 4 – probing the grain for a sample. The blue mechanism is the probe. This will probe the grain for a sample of what’s inside the box of the truck.

img_2118The probe is hanging over the loaded truck box.

Currently, all grain is dumped into the same pit regardless of what brand of seed was planted. This is called “commingling” – defined by Merriam Webster, “to blend thoroughly into a harmonious whole”.

Ok, so back to our world. If our farmer customer #1 grows GMO corn and our farmer customer #2 has Non-GMO soybeans (or corn) that needs harvested, there will be cleaning involved. A LOT OF CLEANING! And without knowing what the rules and regulations would be, it could be very costly for the custom harvester. I recently read that someone calculated it would take four hours to completely clean the inside of a combine (doesn’t seem like enough to me). I honestly don’t know how you can ever COMPLETELY clean a combine of all grain. Not only will the combine have to be completely cleaned, each truck and tarp will also have to be extensively cleaned to eliminate all particles of any GMO product. Will it have to be certified clean by a specific agency? Will there be chemicals involved? Will the chemicals damage the combine, trucks or tarp? In an article I recently read, it even mentioned purchasing a separate combine for GMO grains and another for Non-GMO grains. Do you know what a new combine costs? That would be a measly $500,000+ expense. Maybe while we’re talking two combines for segregation, we should think about separate trucks too. Hmmm…that WOULD take care of the cleaning aspect!

img_2561Dumping grain from the field into the on-farm storage (grain bins).


img_2561Ok, so now that we’ve visited that scenario, let’s think about the storage facility. There will have to be segregated sections of the grain elevator to separate Non-GMO and GMO grains. This would be costly for the elevators who are currently set up to dump in one pit and moved by belts, buckets and augers. There would be no way to completely empty this pit of all grain between loads. And think of the time involved! We think we sit in lines now!There would have to be a separate pit for each grain. The elevators will either have to double in size OR be reduced in half of their current storage areas. Can they reduce? Some of these elevators can’t keep up now with commingling taking place. More expense and who is going to pay for this?

img_0053 Step 5 – dumping the grain into the pit. This is inside of a grain elevator.



Once the grain is delivered to the elevators, it won’t stay there. What about the trains and trucks that haul this grain away to the next step of processing?

img_2141Grain is hauled from the elevators in semi’s like these. These were used to haul grain from the field to the elevator.

It overwhelms me to think about what would have to happen if the GMO labeling restrictions are put into place. So many unknowns at this point. But it will all be at an expense. An expense that would have to be passed on to the farmer which, in turn, is passed along to the consumer.

img_00951When the cement structures are full of grain, some elevators have outside storage, as well.

Segregation of grains will require new government agencies with lots and lots of new personnel. Why? Because someone will have to verify that GMO particles and dust have not been found on Non-GMO food products. There will be testing and more testing and certification to guarantee the food you purchase with the Non-GMO label is nearly 100% Non-GMO.

Here’s something else to think about – with all the different steps involved in getting grain from the field to market, will you be 100% sure that no contamination has taken place? Can you be certain the box of cereal that boasts Non-GMO is as it says it is?





the past six weeks in a nutshell – part 2

The next days of being home meant unloading the Cottage. You have to remember that when we left in June, I had basically loaded everything I would need from our house into the Cottage. The house was closed up to everyone and everything EXCEPT the spiders. They apparently went to work overtime this summer in making our home their home. The first thing I needed to do was recapture my home and send those nasty little devils on a hike (thanks to the vacuum cleaner)! Cleaning the Cottage is so much easier!

On Saturday morning, we were up early with a destination of Boone, IA – we being Curt, Jamie, Eli, Jim and me. Earlier in the summer, Jamie and I had purchased tickets to ride the train knowing how obsessed Eli is with trains. It was going to be Eli’s day of “go go’s”. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction once we got to the depot and he would see the trains. The day was gorgeous! A bit of a summery heat but it was better than too chilly!



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the past six weeks in a nutshell

It’s been six weeks.  Did you miss me?

The one true reason I started writing in the first place was to provide my family a written document of what has taken place at this time in history. I print my blogs from year to year so some day they will have something to look back on. I sort of blew it.

It actually feels a lot longer ago than just six weeks, to tell you the truth. We got home from Montana with the final load on September 23. And then it began…as though I had never left. The real world took over and the clock (and calendar) won out! My days have been full – too full! Could we just step back and jump into that harvest world again? No? You mean I really will have to wait for six more months to be back in my Cottage on Wheels?

What I’d really like to do is jump back into blogging beginning with today. Well, maybe a week ago would be better. However, my brain would never allow me to do that. You see, to begin now with the end-of-the-harvest story never really being told, well…that’s just not right. So, I’m going to step back to the point I left off and tell the story. I suppose, because sometimes I get long-winded, I may have to break this up for you. BUT, if I stop writing, I may never finish. So, I’ll keep writing and writing and when it becomes too long for one post, I will just continue it to the next day. Deal? Deal!

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condensing the journey

img_13812As the water swirled down the kitchen sink, I became aware that it was probably the last sink of dishes I will do in the Cottage in 2014. Suddenly everything I do tonight takes on a whole different feel.

Yep, the 2014 harvest journey is officially over. Tomorrow morning will be the first trip headed in the direction of home. The Beast will be waiting for our return in a few days.

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a generation who can’t let it happen again

I can’t believe it’s been 13 years.

In March, the Z Crew made a trip to New York City. And, of course, the one place we all agreed to visit was the 9/11 Memorial. So, today takes on a whole different feel after actually standing on the same ground where so many died. Being in the city and seeing for myself how it is laid out helped me to understand how chaotic it must have been. But really…how could I know? I wasn’t there.

IMG_3507This was the first time I had ever been in New York so the skyline of the past wasn’t being missed. I didn’t know any different.

Just as there is a generation who don’t know what our world and our country was like prior to 9/11. They don’t know any different.

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hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)


I was going to post pictures of our first day of the three we spent in the mountains but something else felt like it needed to be shared.

This morning, I woke up to the news that Kate Middleton was pregnant again. About an hour later, Jamie texted me, “Kate Middleton is having another baby. Parallel lives.”

I loved Princess Diana. I think that weird sort of love for her and her life was because she and I were so close in age. I always thought it was sort of “cool” to think about how similar we were and yet so very, very different. She was a Princess, for crying out loud! We continued our parallel lives with our weddings and babies (my two older girls). I was devastated when I learned of her death on Sunday, August 31, 1997. The girls and I were sitting in the little Lutheran Church in Jordan when it was announced. I remember the immediate sick feeling I felt in the pit of my stomach.  How could this be? I felt like I had lost a good friend.

Years later, the parallel lives continue with Jamie and Prince William. Married the same month/same year (April 2011), 1st baby within months of each other (2013) and now pregnancy #2 at the same time. Parallel lives.

Poor Kate! I feel so sorry for her – for anyone who is so sick with their pregnancy that it feels like it would be easier to die. I know.

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it’s a wrap


Wheat harvest 2014 is complete for the Z Crew.

A bittersweet farewell to something that has been a day-to-day adventure…whether sitting in the Cottage waiting for the rain to let up or out in the field…for the past 79 days. If you’ve followed us from the beginning, you know it was a late start due to drought and late season freezes. We made it to Kansas on June 18th. Our typical summer runs 110+ days. It will be good to get back home and be reunited with the rest of the family. But leaving the harvest world is difficult for me. I’ve written about this several times in the past. I don’t know why and I can’t seem to put a finger on it.  Soon, though, we’ll be home, home and it will feel like the harvest journey never even happened. It’s because of this that I enjoy going back through my posts and reading what we did on a particular day or in a particular area.

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and those montana sunsets!

photo 1 (6)Yesterday was the 12th day since the rains began and we finally got rolling again.

While we were still in our waiting-for-the-ground-to-dry period, Jim surprised me with a trip to the mountains. We left Friday afternoon and got back early evening on Tuesday. I’ll have more to share about that when I can get caught up on the piles sitting all around me. For now, though, the Beast is eating wheat again and that’s a good thing! Most everyone you visit with here will tell you they’ve never experienced anything quite like the rain we had. Jim’s been a bit worried about what the ground was going to be like – rightfully so – but we’re moving along quite well. Just to make sure we didn’t need it, we brought the tow rope to the field with us. And, so far so good!

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the color green

Yesterday, Jim and I spent most of the day inside the Cottage. Well…maybe I should say I did. Jim, on the other hand, started doing some of the going-home chores that he normally does AFTER we finish cutting. Things like change oil in the pickups, grease whatever needs greased and preparing for the 900+ mile trip “home, home”.

It was about 4:30 when he walked through the door and announced he was going to take a trip out to the combine. That trip is about 40 miles. “Give me a second to finish what I’m doing and I’ll ride along”, I said. It didn’t take me long to finish typing what I was typing, shut off the internet, throw on my shoes and walk out the door.

Gosh, it felt good to get out of there and head back down the roads that we had been travelling daily until the rains began just a week ago today (Friday).  The day was beautiful and the sky seemed extra blue and clear. Once we got just west of Jordan, I noticed it…the color green. It was only seven days ago the color was brown. The desert had come to life after that life-giving rain we had. Jordan was blessed with about half her normal year’s rainfall in just two days.



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