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.”
Some kids were simply born to farm, and Jared Stieben is one of them. The May graduate of Hutchinson Community College recently joined his father, Nick, on the family farm near Bazine, and is in the middle of his first wheat harvest as a full-time farmer.
At age 20, he’s already got plenty of experience. He began renting a quarter-section of land when he was 11, and bought some land of his own last fall. But his commitment to farming, and to wheat harvest, runs even deeper: “My Dad turned me loose on the combine when I was 8 years old,” Jared recalls. “We were a bit short-handed and he needed to take a truck to the grain elevator. My Mom followed me around the field until Dad got back to the field, because she was so worried about me.”
He is the fourth generation to grow crops and livestock on land in Ness County, and although the wheat crop this year is subpar thanks to several years of drought, harvest is still a big deal. Family members, including an uncle and several cousins, still come back to help.
“Harvest has always been a big event for our family, and having our other family members here to help is something I love,” Jared says.
Wheat harvest is the culmination of months of toil and stress, and to finally harvest the crop is a big relief.
“We work all year to get to harvest, and when it gets here, we don’t do anything else until it’s finished,” he explains. “It’s good to see the finished product.”
Bazine is a rural community, but Jared is one of few young people to return to the family farm. He notes that despite its agricultural surroundings, other people his age often have little understanding about what it takes to raise crops.
“Some of my friends bring family members out to the field to watch harvest take place. They are in awe about how everything works. It is amazing how unaware the public is of what we do on a farm,” he says.
Jared and Nick also raise grain sorghum and they have a cowherd. Drought has taken its toll on the livestock: since last year, they have sold about half their cows, because they just can’t grow enough grass needed to feed them. It’s been difficult to let go of cows they have nurtured for years, Jared admits. But with a healthy dose of optimism, and a good sense of humor, he looks to the future.
“I’ve just started farming full-time, so I hope I get the bad times out of the way early,” he says with a laugh.
“My Dad says it always rains at the end of a dry spell. I’ve always been an optimistic person. In farming, you have to be.”