Students balance homework with harvest

Tate DeMeulenaere splits time between home and campus to help out on his family farm. During harvest season, he can be at the farm up to 30 hours per week when not in class. — Submitted photo

Tate DeMeulenaere not only juggles school and track practice this time of year but also harvesting corn and milking cows.

DeMeulenaere is one of several Wartburg students splitting their time between school work and field work.

“There is no doubt that it is difficult to balance college and farming,” DeMeulenaere said. “However, it’s something that I’ve been doing my whole life so it’s sort of normal for me to constantly be planning my days and weeks around what needs to be done at home.”

DeMeulenaere works on his family farm near Belle Plaine, 67 miles south of Waverly. His family owns 200 beef and dairy cattle and farms 1,500 acres of land.

Normally, DeMeulenaere heads home every weekend and usually one or two days during the week to farm. During harvest, DeMeulenaere puts in between 24-32 hours per weekend and 30 hours per week when he’s not in school.

“I try not to miss classes because of harvest or milking, but occasionally I do have to and most professors understand and are willing to bend a little,” DeMeulenaere said.

Jordan Kaiser farms 1,300 acres with his family north of Keystone, 65 miles south of Waverly. He works 10-12 hour days during harvest season depending on the weather and the status of the crops. Kaiser said he rotates weekends with his brother so he doesn’t always have to be home each weekend.

DeMeulenaere said that the high expectations and workload Wartburg expects of their students may make it more difficult for him than if he had attended a different institution.

However, DeMeulenaere and Kaiser both chose to pursue business majors at Wartburg due to the changing industry. Following graduation from Wartburg this May, both DeMeulenaere and Kaiser said they both plan to find employment with an agricultural business close to home with hopes to take over the family farms in the future.

“Farming is not what it used to be 10 to 20 years ago,” DeMeulenaere said.

“It’s a lot about traditional farming techniques and everything else, but it’s more of a business today than ever before. Farmers must know what they are doing with their money if they want to be successful.”

Even with this year’s drought and early harvest, DeMeulenaere and Kaiser said profits should only be slightly lower than normal.

“This year is definitely easier than other years because the crops did so bad back home,” Kaiser said.

The drought didn’t affect the crops until they hit maturity, Kaiser said. The corn was then severely affected, but a wave of rain in late August helped the soybeans.

“Obviously yields are going to be lower this year, but at least for us they are not as low as we were expecting,” DeMeulenaere said.

DeMeulenaere said he still has around 300 acres of corn to harvest before tillage on the fields begins. Kaiser finished harvest last week but is already looking toward next year’s season.

“If we don’t get enough snowfall this winter to help replenish the ground then I think that we will be in for another long year,” Kaiser said.

Leave a Reply