Women take part in all aspects of farming


Staff writer

Farmers have been patiently waiting for the rain to stop.

The past month has brought horrendous storms to Marion County and anxious farmers are ready to begin the wheat harvest.

Not only are they ready, but their wives are ready, too. Now, more than ever, farming is a family affair.

Carol Vogel has been helping her husband, Randy, with harvest since they were married in 1982. When she was teen-ager she helped her father.

Suzanne Thole has been working on the farm for about 20 years.

Sam Oborny quit her job four years ago to start helping on the family farm. She said, "That's when I got really immersed whole-heartedly."

These women don't all spend their time on the farm and haven't always been full-time farmers.

While farming takes up a good percentage of her time, Vogel finds time to volunteer at church. Oborny used to work part-time, but she quit to become a full-time farmer. Thole, however, always has helped on the farm.

Years ago women spent the day cooking for huge harvest crews. Today, these women are out in the fields with their husbands working alongside them.

Vogel does a variety of things, including driving the grain truck and the tractor that pulls the grain cart. "When my husband needs to get off of the combine and do a repair job I drive the combine too," Vogel said.

Oborny spends most of her time running the combine.

Thole said, "I help all year round with farming. I help get the seed to the field. I help in the pasture. I check the fence and spray the hedge trees. I do anything.

"I'm a general gofer. I drive the semi and the other trucks. I help get the combine ready. I get lunch ready. I do everything and anything."

Changes in technology and advancement in machinery has played a large role with farm work.

Oborny said she thought the use of semis had changed the most over the years. Instead of using small farm trucks and trailers to haul the wheat from the fields to the elevators, many farmers are using semis.

She said, "You see a lot more semis at the co-op than you did just a few years ago. A lot of the big farmers are using semis. It gets things there quicker and makes things faster."

Vogel agreed that trucks have changed the most over the years. She said, "We have larger machinery overall and bigger combines."

Changes in fuel prices have hit farmers as well.

Thole said, "It's hard on everybody anymore. Things with marketing the grain have changed too. Now you can only sell grain during certain hours of the day and if you haven't hauled any grain in by that certain time you have to wait until the next day."

The women agreed that the way the grain is tested has changed. Vogel said, "They (elevator employees) used to come out and scoop the sample with a coffee can and now it's all mechanically done. It used to be more person-to-person but now not so much."

There isn't a typical day in the life of a harvester. Every day is different but the tasks, for the most part, remain the same.

Vogel said, "We rise very early in the morning. If the day is dry we try to be out harvesting before noon and then, depending on how many of our children happen to be at home during the summertime, either I stop and make lunch and take it back to the field or my daughter, Alissa, brings the lunch to us." After lunch Vogel said harvesting continues into the evening. "Sometimes we're out there close to midnight."

A typical day for Oborny is "very busy." She said, "We don't generally start cutting until after dinner but a lot of times we're putting up hay at the same time so we do that in the morning and start cutting in the afternoon."

For Thole, the days last until about 10 p.m. during harvest. She said after breakfast they haul in the grain that was cut the night before. "After that we get the vehicles back to the farm for the day. We fuel up and grease the combinand then we wait until we think the grain is ready to go. Usually we get started around 11:30 but sometimes not until 1. Then we cut like mad."

Over the years the women recall some memorable and scary moments.

Vogel said one year the elevators were filling up quickly and the trucks had to set in line anywhere from one to two hours. "This was before we had cell phones," she said. "And my husband was out in the field waiting on the combine and both of our trucks were caught in line at the co-op waiting to unload."

Thole recalls the times when storms threaten the crops. "We're hurrying to get the load of wheat home in the shed and hurrying out of the field when a storm comes up."

Thole also remembered a time when she used to haul hay bales home from east of Marion. "The bale hauler held about five bales. I went home and couldn't get them unloaded. I was on my way back (to get more) and I lost them on the highway."

Vogel also remembered the days when her children were babies. She remembers especially the experience with one of her children, Eric, who is now 16 years old. "We would be harvesting with him strapped in the truck beside us. He'd sleep in the car seat as we'd drive the two-ton trucks in and out of town."

Oborny said she has had several scary moments, but, "Like any other job there are good days and there are bad days. I enjoy it. It's a good life."