Dakota Harvest

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Harvest Meal | Dakota Harvest

Harvest Meal

by Paul Holje

July is an interesting month when you grow up on a farm. The rush of spring’s work planting is done and we are preparing for harvest to start in August. The wheat is growing well and starting to change to endless fields of gold.


Our time is spent getting the combine tuned up, the trucks cleaned and ready, and scouting the fields deciding which crop will be harvested first. We get to finish July with a trip to the State Fair as a prelude to the start of harvest.

When harvest time comes, it can be a mad dash to gather the wheat, barley, and durum before the weather turns bad. You get up early and start combining as soon as the dew is gone from the straw. We stay in the field through the night until the dew starts to accumulate again. To get through those long days, we have our coolers of sandwiches and big water jugs. The trucks get very hot and the chafe is itchy.

When it was just my Dad and I doing the harvest, it was a circus to get the trucks loaded from the combine and back to the farm to unload in the grain bin only to return to the field to find another full truck. It was a good thing I had my dog Bozo with to be my co-pilot.

The highlight for me is the evening meal. Mom prepares a hot dish, freshly picked sweet corn, perhaps some dab-a-dough bars, and buttered homemade bread. A hot dish is the name us folks from this part of the country call a “casserole.” The spread is brought out to the field in the pickup truck. The tailgate is put down and a buffet is served.

We stand around with our plates taking a few minutes to enjoy the sunset, the company of friends and family, and the great harvest meal. Everything tastes better in the field. We talk about the yields, the work of the day, and make plans for the next day.

I remember one time when we brought my Grandpa Holje out to the field for supper. We set up a card table in the field and placed chairs around it. An empty glass Coke bottle was put on the table with some wheat for a fitting centerpiece.

As I got older, I split my time helping in the field and helping to cook supper for the field crew. Those experiences of cooking for a group helped shape the feeling of hospitality that I try to extend even today.

Before you know it, the wheat harvest is almost over and it is time to go back to school. There will still be the fall crops of sunflowers, beans, and canola to harvest—but that feels different. I treasure those hot August days where we gather family to eat together watching a hazy sunset.

Harvest meals in the field are a tradition that I hope continues. I look forward to visiting the farm to bring my own family back for a memorable meal in the field.
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