By Angie Baldelomar
While Oberlin residents were anxiously waiting on the load of newly cut wheat to arrive, custom cutting crews who arrived to the city last Monday were getting everything ready to start harvesting.
The crews settled themselves, and their machines, near The Gateway in the county fairground north parking lot. Luke Nibbe, who was in charge of one crew, said he and Chad Olsen own Olsen Custom Farms, one of the largest custom-farming companies in the industry today. They own around 30 combines that they use for their crews, he said, and they also offer some of these combines for rent. He has been Mr. Olsen’s business partner since 1998.
Mr. Nibbe, from Lake Benton, Minn., said he arrived last Monday with his crew ready to start combining. However, the wheat fields here were not ready last Wednesday, he said.
“We thought we had some ready to go west of town, but we tried it today (last Wednesday) and it was not quite ready…,” he said. “Maybe by tomorrow, if it stays hot, it should go.”
He said the crew started the season in Texas earlier this year. Then, he said, he was in Oklahoma for a while before he, along with the crew, came to Oberlin, but the company has crews all over the place. It is not the first year Olsen has come to Oberlin.
Like many other harvesting companies, most of the people who work for them are from South Africa.
“Nice thing about them is that they are not going to run out on you,” he said. “The whole year you don’t have to beg anybody to show up every day.”
He said he is expecting to work on around 2,500 acres of wheat in the Oberlin area, and if the weather is favorable, he expected to finish in seven to 10 days. After Oberlin, he added, the crew is headed to Pierre, S.D.
“Pierre is our big job,” he said, adding that his partner, Mr. Olsen, would stop in Oberlin for a day on his way to Pierre, where he will start setting up everything to start combining there. Mr. Nibbe will join once they finish in Kansas.
He said he likes to work on corn fields better than the other grains his crew works with during the eight-month period it usually takes to go across the country.
“Corn is probably the most fun back home in the fall,” Mr. Nibbe said. “Maybe it’s because when we start combining corn, it means we’re closer to getting done.”
Corn is also the most profitable grain per acre, he added.
He said his wife and four children travel with him during the summer. They travel – and live – in a camper all summer.
“When it gets to a hundred degrees, I just hope the air conditioning keeps working,” he said.
This story was published on the front page of The Oberlin Herald’s print edition on June 29, 2016.