Amazing Woman in Ag: Tracy

Today we have an amazing woman in ag with a little different twist. Tracy, a custom harvester, comes to us today from Nebraska! She is part of Zeorian Harvesting & Trucking, a family business since 1990. If you don't already know what custom harvesters are, I will let Tracy explain! "The custom harvesting industry was "born" during WWII out of necessity. It was looked at as temporary relief to a stressful situation. What wasn't counted on was the fact that the harvesters didn't quit and go away. As the years progressed, the harvesting crews (which used to be comprised of men and more men) have evolved into family-owned businesses. The custom harvester replaces the farmer at harvest time. They provide what's necessary to harvest the grain at the crop's critical stage of development. A harvester will begin their summer trek in the Southern States chasing the wheat crop as it ripens northward. When a harvester stops to do a job, they will have all the support equipment and labor needed to get the job done. Most bring along their homes (on wheels, of course) as they will be away from their "home home" for 120+ days. When the wheat (and other summer grains) has been harvested, most harvesters will settle in another location for fall crops. Wheat is the only crop that produces the journey that is followed by the harvesters." Got it? Ok good!

Tracy learned about harvesting at a young age, with the help of her grandparents. At the age of 12, her Grandma invited her along for the wheat harvest journey. Because her grandparents had always been on the road since 1951, she jumped at the chance to spend some quality time with them and learn about the harvest. "I went with the intentions of helping Grandma with her large crew - cooking, laundry, groceries, etc. What she did, though, hurt her in the long run. One afternoon, she left me in the field with Grandpa to help him move from one field to the next field. That was a mistake. Grandpa showed me how to run the combine and I was hooked. My love of combines and wheat fields began that day." At the age of twelve, Tracy knew she would be in the fields forever. And she was right. The rest is history!

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Being a part of a family farming business certainly has its ups and downs. But Tracy loves all of it. "My favorite thing about this business is the "forced" family time. Our four daughters grew up on the road. This has created a close family with an outstanding work ethic. We've had to work together towards a common goal, being to complete a job, pack up, load up and do it all over again at the next location. It takes all of us working together to get the job done. Not one part of the crew is more important than the other." On top of getting a lot of quality family time, Tracy has been able to network with farmers and harvesters all across the country. "Some of our best friends live 1,000 miles away."

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The obvious challenge of this job is being gone for so long every year. For Tracy, that means leaving behind her oldest two daughters in mid-May. "Our oldest daughter, Jamie and her husband Curt have a little boy, Eli, who just turned one in April. They are expecting another baby in December. Jenna, #2 daughter, has a full time job with CLAAS of North America in Omaha. It's so very hard telling them goodbye and knowing that I probably won't see them until we return in mid-September." On the other hand, that allows Tracy to step back into the "real" world with the kids and keeping the household running. She also stays busy as a substitute bus driver for our school district. And if that's not enough, Tracy is the Executive Director for the U.S. Custom Harvesters. She is also a very doting grandma who loves spending time with her grandson, Eli.

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Tracy's beautiful family with adorable grandson, Eli.

One reason we chose to share Tracy's story is that she is an awesome role model for women in ag out there. "Custom harvesting is still a "man's world". The women involved are usually the ones being the caretakers of the crew. This job is VERY important but it seems the only voices we hear are the voices of the men. I'd like to have more women step up to the plate and start being the leaders that I know they can be. I was the first woman president for the U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. (served three years - 2010, 2011, & 2012) and only the second woman member of the Board of Directors." That is impressive. And Tracy believes it's important to keep the trend going! "I like being able to "prove" to the male gender that I can do what they can do - only better. I'd like the women in this industry to come forward with their strong voices and stories and become the leaders I know they can be!" Thanks to Tracy for sharing her farm story!

For more on Tracy, visit her blog or their family's Facebook Page.

Tracy is also involved in the documentary "The Great American Wheat Harvest." You can check out the trailer by visiting www.greatamericanwheatharvest.com.

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