Katrina Sasse

Learning How to Harvest

I have been harvesting our wheat crop for the past month, operating the header (combine) and paying close attention to the job at hand. It is that time of year again when you can visualise the benefit of your hard work, see what crops have performed and what has not done so well. It is of course a perfect time for farmers to plan and think about the future. I love being the header driver, it is by far my favourite job on the farm.

My father taught me how to drive the header a few years ago. He also taught me that harvesting the crop requires a certain level of patience, carefulness and skill. If you are not careful enough he said “you can do a lot of damage.” Indeed, you can allow a large quantity of grain to go below or over the front or out the back, particularly if you go too quickly through heavy crop. You need to keep your eyes further out in front so you don’t run over anything or hit rocks. Always be mindful when reversing and ensure you listen to the machine closely to know when there is an issue. Of course, try to keep grain losses to a minimum.

I’m not an exception, other women enjoy sitting on the header

When I first met Katelyn for a field interview for my Nuffield research, the 29 year old farmer’s daughter from Ontario was standing around a circle of colleagues, looking comfortable, confident and ready to get on with the plan for the day: harvest the wheat. I stared at the two headers at the edge of the crop and I asked who will be driving them today. Katelyn answered “Dad and I.” Showing off her true talent of header driving, Katelyn multi-tasked, answering her Dad on the two-way radio, emptying the auger into the chaser bin, and talking to me at the same time. She explained to me that her youth was not so much about farming and the pathway she took to come back to her family farm was less than straight forward. In fact she shared a similar story to mine, making me think how many of us are out there? Daughters of farmers – we hear you!

Katrina Sasse
Katrina Sasse
Katrina Sasse,
Daughter and Farm Manager, Leichhardt Fields Pty Ltd – family owned and managed cereal and oilseed cropping enterprise in south-Western Australia.

Katelyn made the decision to return home in her mid-20’s and experienced a deep desire to become a farmer after building up the confidence and the knowledge. Like me, Katelyn is excited to be part of the technology revolution in farming and see’s the enormous opportunities, so is willing to invest her time and resources in her family property. She is a Gen Y free-spirit, not adhering to the farmer stereotype, who frequently travels the world. For Katelyn, finding a home back on the family farm provides her the best opportunity for independence and more flexibility than any other job in Agriculture. I have to agree. After explaining that she came home when her Dad needed a hand and never left, I realised we would have many similar stories to share. Sometimes, you don’t find farming, farming finds you.

The wonderful stories of women’s role in harvest

The enormous contribution of women in grain harvest cannot be summarised into one key role because women wear many hats during harvest time. Although driving the header, it seems is almost entirely done by males, women are increasingly choosing to do this important job plus they are key chaser bin drivers (also known as ‘grain carts’ elsewhere in the world). The various other jobs are not limited to: coordinating the trucks, being a manager, caring for the animals, shifting the machinery, dealing with the contractors, taking the children to school, keeping the kids occupied after school including taking the them out on the tractor or harvester. Women are managing the grain marketing, dealing with the finances, being on call for an emergency, and managing household chores. The list goes on, but women are very good at multi-tasking at this time of year and they are helping the team emotionally to get through hard days to ensure the harvest is done and dusted efficiently. Sounds exhausting to be a woman in harvest? It is.. just ask my sister and mother!

I genuinely believe however complex a woman’s role is during harvest, they are key for our family farm operations to run smoothly. When I say my mother is the glue who keeps the farm together, I really mean it. When she is there, life is easier, when she is not, things get tough. She, like other women in farming help us through the year and look confidently at every new beginning.

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