It’s harvest time again in Montana and farmers are just getting started with this year’s winter wheat harvest.
“We actually had a pretty good start,” said Michelle Erickson-Jones, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association in Broadview. “Well, I take that back. We had a couple breakdowns to start then we’ve had a pretty good start since then.”
Despite the early equipment breakdowns, she said, this year’s winter wheat crop looks really good.
“We’re actually pretty happy with it,” said Erickson-Jones. “The yields look like they’re going to be pretty good. But more importantly than that, we have what appears to be some pretty good quality. Last year, we were a little short on protein. This year it looks like that won’t be a problem. That’s good to see, especially since our export customers prefer our high-quality protein.”
Farming is a very rewarding yet challenging business. And for farmers like Erickson-Jones, the harvest is payday for their year-long efforts and they prepare like athletes do for gameday.
“It’s definitely like going into a big game,” said Erickson-Jones. “This year was definitely a little bit different. We ran our haying season into our harvest season. So it’s been a long summer. But there’s definitely a lot of buildup and a lot of hurry up and wait. You think it’s ready but it’s really not. You really want to get it out of the field as you see thunderstorms in the forecast and you want to get it done.”
This year’s harvest is extra special for her as the first female president of the Montana Grain Growers Association.
“It’s definitely been a special year," she said. "It’s been a busy year. There’s been no shortage of policy items going on especially with renewing the farm bill and trade. It’s definitely something I’m proud of and proud we have a good harvest and it’s been a good year.”
Like so many other volunteer Ag leaders, she gives credit to her family for making her dream of being president of the Montana Grain Growers Association come true.
“I’m lucky to have a supportive family,” said Erickson-Jones. “My dad and husband are involved and we have a really good hired man and supportive mother and father-in-law who help with the kids a lot and are willing to watch them a lot and who are willing to pick up some of the extra work that I can’t do obviously if I’m gone in Washington, D.C. or somewhere else.”
She says her love for farming goes back to when she was just a little girl.
“I’ve wanted to farm since I was six," she said. "I finally did get the opportunity after spending some time in the corporate world to come back and farm. So it definitely was a life-long dream to be a full-time farmer. I’ve also always loved policy. The Grain Growers gave me an outlet to do a lot of policy work, to travel and to influence how policy impacts Montana agriculture and farmers in general.”
So with that love for both farming and policy, what’s her preference – being in the seat of a combine or the seat of a congressional hearing room?
“It’s kind of a toss-up, but I do love my combine,” said Erickson-Jones.
As the winter wheat harvest ramps up across Montana, an amazing 77 percent of the crop is still in good to excellent condition. But because of this year’s spring planting delays, the 2018 spring wheat harvest is still a ways off.