The good ol’ days of farming

By Anthony Smith
President, Washington Association of Wheat Growers

wheat field

Think back to the early days growing up on the farm and helping out. Do you remember all the great times you had? It seemed like stress levels were much lower.

I remember my first solo combine job in 1982-83. I ran a cabless Gleaner-G Harvester. It was itchy and hot, but I was on my own, and I only had to worry about doing my job well. When lunch time came, work stopped, and the harvest crew gathered to eat and visit for a bit. As I got older and more involved with the farm, I realized how many other things there were to worry about. I’ve also watched as the number of people needed during harvest fell, and the communal lunch has become a solitary meal, eaten on the go.

My father, like most wheat farmers back then, had stresses and challenges that were unique to the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Fortunately, he and his neighbors had each other to lean on. We still have neighbors, of course, but they are fewer and often farther away, thanks to farm consolidation or children leaving the farm. It also seems like we’ve become more isolated, thanks to the internet, emails, and texting. We have our own unique farming stresses, such as high input costs, dam removal worries, and burdensome pesticide regulations. Add those to the usual stressors, such as bills, insurance, maintenance, and weather, it becomes a balancing act for sure. 

One thing that I’ve found that helps me deal with stress is making the effort to actually see people and visit in person. I know taking the time to do that can be hard, when you have a field waiting to be sprayed or a machine needing to be repaired. June is the month when Washington State University holds their variety trial plot tours. There’s probably one near you (you can find the schedule at Many counties hold summer meetings in conjunction with a plot tour, so this is a great way to visit with neighbors, learn about the newest varieties from breeders, hear what’s happening in the industry, and maybe enjoy a meal. 

Representatives from the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington Grain Commission usually attend county meetings, so this is an opportunity to share your concerns and opinions and let us know what issues your county is dealing with. Benton County’s meeting and plot tour will be over by the time you read this, but I’m looking forward to hearing what’s going on in my county followed by scouting out my potential next variety at the plot tour.

Harvest is coming fast, which means there’ll be even less time to take a breather and slow down for a bit. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a very long to-do list that just keeps getting longer by the minute. When I do get too stressed, I’m going to remember those early days, and how enjoyable they were — even if they were enjoyable because my father was doing all the stressing. Thanks, dad.

I hope your operations are doing well and that Mother Nature is blessing you with everything you need to grow a great crop.