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SIxth-generation farm family wraps up harvest near Haviland

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Denton Clark runs the combine while his wife Kadie runs the graincart on their family farm near Haviland.

Clark Family Farms in Haviland is wrapping up yet another wheat harvest. This harvest started on June 17 and has been drawn out by rainy days in the beginning and typical machinery breakdowns but it is finally coming to a close after almost three weeks in the field. 

“[My] favorite thing about harvest would have to be the togetherness of family. Pulling together to get crops in that we’ve worked so hard to produce,” said Jeana Clark. 

This year the Clark’s believe the yields are average or above average in comparison to previous years harvest. Even though harvest can be hard, Jeana says it is always worth it in the end. 

“We get tired, we get cranky, But in the end, the satisfaction of doing our best and reaping the reward of harvest, making sure the bills get paid, is worth it,” said Jeana. 

Kadie Clark, daughter-in-law of Jeana Clark, is in a position she never thought she would be in. She grew up in California and moved to rural America with her family as a teenager. She never dreamed of marrying into a family that farms, and it has been a learning experience ever since.

“I could give you a thousand examples of times I learned something and it was amazing to me,” said Kadie. “The support and community of this area means the world to me, and is what made me realize that this is something I could be a part of permanently.”

Kadie’s jobs during harvest include a little bit of everything. She drives the grain cart, delivers invoices, cleans equipment windows, and, in her words, makes sure enough dad jokes are told for the entire farm. 

Clark Family Farms in Haviland has been around for over 125 years. In 1883 Cletis Clark’s ancestors settled near Haviland and descendants of the family have been farming in the area ever since. Cletus and his wife Jeana are the fifth generations to till the land that was originally homesteaded in 1883. That makes Denton and his wife Kadie the 6th generation. Cletus, Jeana, and Denton work full time on the farm throughout the year. Kadie is a teacher at Liberty Middle School in Pratt.

Skyland Grain Marketing Director Matt Overturf said wheat quality was good in the Southcentral Kansas, despite early predictions that untimely weather events may have taken a toll.

"We had an active harvest week and came out with good yields and even better quality,“ he said. ”The yields are all over the place and the quality is surprisingly good considering the hot dry weather we have been experiencing.“

Overturf said there was still plenty of wheat in supply and not a lot of export demand, so wheat prices were down, and not going up in the farmer’s favor anytime soon.

But for Clark Family Farms, the outlook on planting and harvesting wheat never changes much. It’s been a good family enterprise for six generations, likely it will carry on for a few more generations.

According to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, for the week ending July 5, 2020, Kansas winter wheat mature was 98%, ahead of 87% last year, and near 96% for the five-year average. Harvested was 80%, well ahead of 52% last year, and near 76% average.

Larry Glenn from Frontier Ag of Quinter in Gove County, reported that his first intake of wheat started around June 20-21. They received a couple of loads and then it stopped. It has been a slow process getting the wheat to the grain bins. Farmers were constantly interrupted by heavy amounts of rain. Along with the rain, farmers were also facing fields that still had green patches in them and weeds. Comparing bushels to last year, they are considerably less, due to fewer acres being planted and fields drying slower because of rain. Yields are also below average; last year workers were having to store wheat on the ground because of the abundance of wheat. This year Glenn says it should all fit in the bins. Protein levels are above 12%, and test weights are 60 pounds per bushel and above.

Craig Dinkel of Midway Extension District in Ellsworth and Russell counties, started with a little harvest on June 17, but was shut down by rain shortly afterward. They were able to start back up on June 24 in the afternoon. Yields this year are all over the board, ranging from 20 to 70 bushels per acre, with averages of 45 to 55 bushels. Yields have mostly been below average, but in the southeast corner of Ellsworth County, some spots were above average. This year harvest started later than normal, and with freeze damage, dry weather and hail, it is taking longer. They are usually done by July 4. Harvest should be wrapping up in the next week, if the weather cooperates. Dinkel reported that in his area, Kansas Wheat Alliance's Zenda was one of the varieties that was standing out.