Harvest traditions are kept alive

Hannah Tupling, nephew Logan Hall, Norman Tupling and Mike Tupling have a home-cooked meal brought to the field for lunch during the wheat harvest in Mansfield. (Empire Press photo/Adrienne Douke)


By Adrienne Douke
Empire Press Correspondent

An International Harvester combine augers wheat into waiting semitruck at the 4T Ranch during the wheat harvest. (Provided photo/Tara Tupling)

The 2017 wheat harvest is officially underway and wheat farmers in Douglas County are cutting their crops. Wheat farming goes back many generations in this area and during this yearly event is a special tradition passed down from one generation to the next.

Providing a hot full-course meal to the crew in the field is an old wheat farming tradition. The Tupling 4T Ranch near Mansfield still serves a daily full-course harvest meal to its crew. Tara Tupling prepares the meals at home, packs them up, and drives them out to the field in her old green truck. “No air conditioning here,” she says.

In the back of the truck, Tupling puts two benches and a “captain’s seat” which are unloaded in a shaded area so the crew has a place to sit while they eat.

Thursday’s menu was pulled pork sandwiches, potato salad and coleslaw, baked beans, fresh cherries and lemon cake.

“I plan my menu 10 days in advance…,” Tupling said.

Tupling learned to cook from her grandmother Phyllis Allan early on and says “I love to cook.”

Using the tailgate as a buffet table, Norman Tupling, Mike Tupling and Henry Tupling dish up a traditional harvest meal prepared and brought to the field by Norman Tupling’s wife Tara on Aug. 3. The 4T Ranch still observes this time-honored tradition of bringing full-course hot meals to the field for the crew. (Empire Press photo/Adrienne Douke)

Bringing harvest meals to the field is an old tradition that originated when crews worked with a team of horses harnessed to a combine. The cook wagon and its crew stayed out in the field until harvest was completed for the day. When modernization came with combustion engines, the meals were cooked at home then brought to the field.

Family support and teamwork are the attributes that help get this job done.

“For us, harvest is a celebration, our Thanksgiving. It’s everything we’ve worked so hard for and we treasure our traditions, like bringing harvest meals to the field for the crew,” said Tupling.

Henry Tupling remembers his grandmother Helen Matthiesen bringing hot lunches to the field when he was younger.

“Roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade pie and cinnamon rolls. People from far and wide knew about her legendary cinnamon rolls.”

The trick to her success with the cinnamon rolls, Tara Tupling said, “Was to warm the flour, the utensils, and keep the eggs at room temperature.”

Wheat farmers are proud of their country way of life.

Hannah Tupling has a bird’s eye view of the wheat harvest, watching from the floor of the combine. (Provided photo/Tara Tupling)

“It’s a good life, but not an easy one,” Tupling said. “The smell of harvest when the wheat is being cut brings me back home, wonderful childhood memories, I love the smell.”

The Mansfield community is built around wheat farming, family and community, and their roots go deep.

Tupling remembers pulling rye as a young girl, and then later cooking harvest meals as a high school student.

“I bought my first car with the money I earned from that first job,” Tupling said.

Tupling reflected that dryland farming is always a gamble. “We plow the fields and plant the seeds, and then we have to trust the Lord to do the rest. Timing is everything, we trust the good Lord to provide us with the weather we need. Rain when we need it and the sun at the right times. We are very blessed.”

Norman and Tara’s daughter Hannah Tupling helps her mom with cooking and chores at home and, like most farm kids, rides in the combine with her dad from time to time. Her mom asked her if she would like to cook for the crew when she got older and, like the country girl she is, she replied, “I think I want to drive the combine, mom.”