Each year, more than 20,000 Kansas wheat farmers take dramatic risks to grow the wheat that feeds the world. We hope you enjoy learning more about these farmers through our series, the “Faces of Harvest.”
When you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between the professions of accounting and farming. Both require timeliness, attention to detail and the ability to work hard at crunch time.
That may be why in addition to a diversified farm operation near Udall, brothers Mark and Kirk Barnett also run tax preparation offices in Udall and Douglass. The tax business – something the brothers began nearly 40 years ago – is a great way for them to stay busy in the winter months.
Right now, however, the focus is on wheat harvest.
They have about 2,200 acres of wheat, some of which is devoted to certified seed production. Though harvest takes precedence when the wheat is ripe, the brothers also have 800 acres of cotton that takes frequent scouting and spraying at about the same time.
Fortunately, they are blessed with great harvest help. Full-time employee Matt Wilson is a steady hand, but seasonal help includes three fellows from Wichita who take vacation each year to help bring in the wheat crop.
“We’re fortunate to have the help we have. I’ll brag on them all day long,” Mark says. “But we know the reason they keep coming back to help us: the food.”
Harvest meals, the brothers agree, are a powerful incentive. Mark’s wife Cinda and Kirk’s wife Luanne are great cooks, and put a lot of effort in keeping the harvest crew well-fed.
“They bring out both a noon meal and an evening meal, and they work too hard at it,” Mark says with a laugh. Noon meals are served hot, and the entire crew shuts down to eat. Evening meals are less formal, but just as hearty, he adds: “All the guys say it’s the reason they come back!”
Taking a little time to shut down during harvest to enjoy a meal – and each other’s company – is one of those traditions that makes farming enjoyable, and wheat harvest that much more special.
“There is a lot of satisfaction at the end of a good day of wheat harvest, when everything ‘clicks’ like it should,” Mark says. “It’s not always perfect, but you take the good days with the bad. And the good ones are rewarding.”