Original Article provided by Kansas Wheat Commission
Nov 23, 2011
Listen to the audio version here.
Promoting the 2013 feature film, “The Wheat Harvest Movie” are producer Conrad Weaver, custom harvesters Tracy and Jenna Zeorian and Moriah Wagner, movie publicist.
MANHATTAN, Kan. – For most communities throughout the Wheat Belt, harvest represents two weeks of non-stop action, one time a year. Custom crews hired to bring in the crop, however, spend four months battling Mother Nature, weariness, and breakdowns.
The plight of custom harvesting operations will be chronicled in an upcoming documentary entitled, “The Wheat Harvest Movie.” Currently in production by Conjostudios, LLC, it will debut in 2013. The operation owned by Jim and Tracy Zeorian is one of several to be featured in the movie, which according to producer/director Conrad Weaver will “… tell the stories, struggles and pleasure that custom harvesters share in time spent with family and friends harvesting the wheat that feeds the world.”
Several additional custom harvesting operations will be profiled, including JKD Harvesting of Colby; Misener Family Harvesters of Elk City, Oklahoma and Braathen Harvesting, Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Tracy Zeorian, who is president of the U.S. Custom Harvesters Association, Inc., says being a custom harvester gets into one’s blood.
I’ve oftentimes said it is more of an addiction than anything. It’s something that you just love. It’s your lifestyle, like a farmer. It keeps you going, because that’s what you’ve been involved with. We’re ready to go as soon as the combine is put away, we’re looking forward to the next spring again,” Tracy says.
The Zeorian crew hails from Manley, Nebraska. Since 2009, its annual harvest campaign (along with that of three other crews) has been chronicled in a popular feature called, “All Aboard Harvest,” in the High Plains Journal newspaper. The All Aboard Harvest series has generated global interest in the custom harvesting business and the people who own and operate these custom harvest crews.
“I think the people that have found the HPJ series have enjoyed the stories they hear from the correspondents. It comes from the heart. People see that and realize how important we are in the link between the farmer and the market,” Tracy says.
The Zeorian crew has a rich history. About 60 years ago, Tracy’s grandfather and his brother founded their own custom operation. Tracy became a part of that crew as a 12-year-old girl, who wanted to help her grandmother keep the crew’s living quarters clean. Tracy’s grandfather invited her out to the field one day, and “…when grandpa taught me how to run the combine, I was hooked,” she recalled.
Tracy met her husband on the crew in 1975. He was a hired man, who eventually bought a combine of his own. In 1990, Jim and Tracy to took off on their own; now they run one combine and a truck, making stops in five states. Youngest daughter Taylor works in the family’s camper-trailer, cleaning, preparing meals and performing chores. Tracy drives a truck and Jim runs the combine. Older daughters Jenna and Jamie have also worked in the family business. Jim and Tracy’s youngest daughter is Callie.
“We get along very well. Everyone works together; no one job is more important than the other. We’re a team and we pull together. And once the job is done we load up, hit the road and start all over again,” Tracy said.
Taylor, Jenna and Jamie represent the fourth generation of Zeorians to make the harvest run. Tracy is involved in the U.S. Custom Harvesters Association, Inc., in part to ensure the industry’s future.
“There is another generation of harvesters that and that excites the heck out of me, because it will continue, just like farming,” she said. “I just hope the rules and regulations don’t discourage the young people.”
For more about the Jenna Zeorian’s All Aboard Wheat Harvest blog and photos, click on this link to the High Plains Journal project.
To view the trailer for the upcoming film, “The Wheat Harvest Movie,” click here.