A Family Affair: Students return home during harvest season

The house on the Heineman family farm was built in the 1800s.

Annelise Wells

As Grant Heineman drives down the gravel roads of rural Ogden, Iowa, he points out a house on the right side of his truck.

“And that’s where my brother lives,” he said as the sun starts to set behind the wind turbines on the horizon.  

Heineman is able to recognize and tell stories about almost all of his neighbors by his farm. Whether it’s giving a friendly wave to his cousin driving the opposite direction or pointing out one of his classmates helping out far off in the fields, it’s evident that key family relationships are the base of the Heineman’s farm.

Heineman, the Iowa State Daily Media Group Publication Board chair and senior in agricultural engineering, is one of many students who spend some weekends helping out at their family’s farms during harvest season.

The Heineman’s farm is located in Ogden, Iowa, which has a population of 1,996 people. It is about half an hour outside of Ames.

Their farm was built in 1889. Some of Heineman’s family still lives in the original house that was built 128 years ago. After all of those years, Heineman is a fifth generation farmer. 

On the farm, they mainly harvest corn and soybeans. They have a rotation of three trucks that are constantly transporting and moving the crops. Additionally, they have large corn driers that help take the moisture out of the corn.

Heineman is also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho, a social and professional fraternity that focuses on careers in agriculture. The fraternity allows agriculture majors to not only connect socially with peers, but have better connections when they head out into the workforce.

“Once you graduate you have so many connections, which is great,” Heineman said.

Heineman also said farming is a lot like gambling. This is because the length of the harvest season is dependent on the weather. Usually harvest season lasts from around late August to mid November. However, with the larger amount of rain Iowa has had over the past weeks, some places might be harvesting up until Thanksgiving.

Additionally, Heineman said his dad has allowed him to live his life at college and he doesn’t have to come home if he doesn’t want to. However, as he has gotten older, he said he looks forward to heading home to help out during harvest more and more.

“I can’t really picture myself doing anything else,” Heineman said.

Another senior who helps out back home is Andrew McEvoy. McEvoy is majoring in agricultural studies and minoring in agronomy. Growing up with an agricultural background, he also started working in the family business when he was young.

“You start out with Grandma and Grandpa teaching you the ropes a little bit, letting you drive the tractor once a while, driving vehicles in fields when you are young so you can’t hit anything,” McEvoy said.

McEvoy helps out with their corn and soybean crops along with their cow-calf operations. He’s had an interest in livestock since he was in fifth grade.

Similarly to Heineman, McEvoy has the challenge of balancing both working at home and trying to enjoy college life.

“I try to find a balance,” McEvoy said. “I don’t go home every weekend, but definitely when Dad needs help.

“You learn a lot in the real world that you don’t learn in the classroom.”

McEvoy has been involved with many agriculture organizations on campus over his four years. He has served on the CALS Council, been involved with the CALS ambassador program and been a part of the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization.

Although he has many career goals and interests for his immediate future, McEvoy has one constant underlying goal looking forward.

“Ultimately, just to be able to farm and keep it in the family for another generation,” McEvoy said.