Monday, August 20, 2012

Zeorian Harvesting

Today, we feature Tracy Zeorian of Zeorian Harvesting and trucking.  She and her family has deep roots in agriculture as they continue to carry on a family business - chasing the ripening wheat from Texas to Montana.

Zeorian Harvesting & Trucking of Manley, NE unknowingly began its existence in the early 1950’s. This is when my Grandpa purchased a combine and headed for Oklahoma as a custom harvester. It was the spring of 1974 when my Grandma approached me with the idea of traveling with them that summer to help her. I was 12 and thought going with my Grandpa and Grandma all summer seemed too good to be true. I was going to “get” to help Grandma with the duties involved with having a wheat harvest crew – grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, meals, etc.

The idea of keeping Grandpa and Grandma’s little trailer house clean intrigued me and the fact that I would get to spend the summer – all summer – with them was something I had never done. Grandpa and Grandma had always been gone during the summer months and harvest was something I really knew nothing about except that it meant they were gone. Grandma and I made a perfect team! She and I would head to town to do the laundry at the local laundromat and get groceries. If I was lucky, it would also involve a pizza for lunch at Pizza Hut and a “Black Cow” (rootbeer float). A really good day meant shopping for school clothes!

Then, one day, Grandma left me in the field with Grandpa. Grandpa put me in his 750 Massey combine, showed me how to make it work and I was hooked! It was an unfortunate mistake on Grandma’s part. From then on, whenever I could be in the combine, that’s where you would find me! I still had to be Grandma’s #1 right hand, but the wheat field was (and is) where I really wanted to be.

The combine I learned how to drive when I was only 12 years old. Look closely…that’s me in the header helping Grandpa clean the combine before moving to the next job. 

One piece of advice my Grandma shared with me at an early age was, “WHATEVER you do, don’t marry a harvester”. Jim was a hired man for my Grandpa – hazards of the trade! We were married April 1982. At that time, Jim wasn’t a harvester; he was an electrician. We purchased our first used 760 Massey the fall of 1983. Jim had fallen in love with the industry, too. When my Grandpa and Dad approached him with the idea of joining Hancock Harvesting, we jumped on the proposal. Unfortunately, I was left behind. I had a full time job and we decided we needed the steady income to help pay the household bills while we were trying to make this work. This absolutely KILLED me! I would drive to where the harvesters were once in awhile but it just made matters worse. It was so hard to leave when I had to go back to work.

Jamie was born December 1985 and Jenna followed in April 1988. Jim was still following the harvest route…without us. It never got any easier for me when I’d see those loaded machines heading down the highway without me. By spring of 1990, Dad and Grandpa decided it was time for them to break free from the wheat route. Jim was driving truck for a local company hauling loads to Western Nebraska. It was on one of those trips that he saw loaded combines heading south and the bug bit him again. Could we do this with one combine? It would mean hiring someone to help Jim in the field and the girls and I would “have” to go too. We decided it was worth a try. We traded the Massey for a brand new Case combine, borrowed my grandparent’s trailer house and pickup and we headed for Lodgepole, NE. That summer, we only went to Lodgepole. The next year, we headed back to Lodgepole and then decided to make the long haul to Montana (following the familiar path my grandparents had done so many years). In 1992, we embarked on the full harvest run, beginning in Oklahoma and finishing in Montana. This year marks our 30th year of being involved with the wheat harvest trek.

Zeorian Harvesting in 1990 (Lodgepole, NE)

Today, we are still traveling the Midwest every summer chasing the ripening wheat from Texas to Montana. We added two more daughters to the mix, Taylor in 1994 and Callie in 1997. They still pack their belongings in the trailer house each spring and travel the route with us. Jamie and Jenna wish they were still with us.

In 2001, a change occurred. This was the year we decided Jamie and Jenna were old enough to take over the household duties (my job) and I would go to the field with Jim. I was ecstatic!! I was going to be back in the field again and the money we would have paid a hired hand would go to the girls for their college fund. This worked and continues to work for us. In April, Jim will begin the job of getting the equipment road ready. By the first of May, we are generally packing the trailer house (40 ft. fifth wheel) for the 100+ days we’ll be living in it. By mid May, we are closing down our home, mowing the yard for the last time and contacting utility services in preparation of hitting the road again.

Our summer begins in Texas. It takes us two trips to get the equipment to each stop. When we leave a destination, Jim will drive the Peterbilt truck pulling the combine trailer (combine is on the trailer) and grain trailer combination. I pull the header trailer (and header) with our Freightliner straight truck. Once we reach our new destination, Jim and I will drive the Peterbilt back to the original starting point. The second trip involves the Pete pulling the trailer house, I drive a pickup and Taylor and Callie will drive the car. This happens each time we have to move. We have a stop in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and two in Montana.

Getting the combine road ready.

As I mentioned earlier, Jim and I are in the field. I love being in the combine and could be there every day. The problem is Jim also enjoys being in the combine. Most of the summer, he and I will take turns fillingtrucks and driving the combine. I fill my truck (Freightliner) while Jim’s taking his truck (Peterbilt) to the elevator. When he gets back, I take my truck to the elevator and he jumps in the combine. We both get our combine “fix” this way.

While we’re in the field, Taylor and Callie are back at the home front (trailer house) taking care of the necessary duties…grocery shopping, laundry, post office, meals, etc. Generally, I will make sandwiches for lunch and the girls will fix a nice evening meal. If it works, they’ll haul it to the field and we’ll have the typical harvest end gate meal. This is a nice break for Jim and me and the girls enjoy being able to hang out in the field for the evening. No one job in this family run business is more important than another. It takes all of us working together to produce the high quality outcome that we take pride in providing our farmer. Once the last acre of wheat is cut, we’ll load the equipment, move down the road and start all over again in a new town.

Zeorian Harvesting & Trucking
Left to right – Jim, Tracy, Callie, Jamie & Curt Hermesch
Jenna & Taylor

This lifestyle has been called an "addiction" by a few and loved by many! The custom harvester provides a service to the American farmer by providing the necessary equipment to harvest their crops in a timely and efficient manner – which is of utmost importance. I have a passion for this lifestyle and enjoy sharing our journey through my blog, our Facebook page, and my Twitter.

To learn more about the custom harvesting industry and how important we are in getting food to your table, please follow Zeorian Harvesting’s annual journey. You can also check out what’s going on in the custom harvesting world by visiting the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. website or Facebook page.

Thank you Tracy for opening our eyes to a different and vital part of agriculture!  If you would like to learn more about becoming a Face of Agriculture Feature - like Tracy and her family - please contact us today!