Purchase photos

Wheat chaff in farmer's blood

7/3/2013

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

PALCO -- Bob McClelland looks forward to the chance to climb aboard his massive John Deere combine and start cutting wheat.

"This is my relaxation," he said. "If I'm on this, I don't worry about other things."

That simply shows how important wheat is to McClelland, who at 83 years old, has a long, long history of involvement with the crop.

And not just on the farm.

Make no mistake, McClelland has long been involved in harvesting wheat.

"Well, ever since I was born," he said, smiling.

He wasn't born far from where he was cutting last week, and he and his son, Mike, continue farming the land where he was born.

McClelland, however, has had years of involvement serving on the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, two industry trade groups in the state.

His son thinks he could have as many as 30 years of service, serving stints on both boards.

Mike McClelland is a second-generation Kansas Wheat Commission board member and actively is managing the McClelland farm.

The elder McClelland also served on the State Conservation Commission.

Mike McClelland is in no rush to push his father out of the operation, although Bob McClelland admits he's become more of a gofer for the farm, picking up parts and other items as needed.

"Do this or do that," Bob McClelland said of his role in the farm.

He defers most questions about the day-to-day operations to his son.

"Some of it's pretty good," McClelland said of the wheat he's been cutting. "We had some that wasn't even worth cutting, so we had it baled."

Mike McClelland said the 500 acres of wheat baled only produced approximately three bales to the acre.

In his years in the wheat business, Bob McClelland's seen plenty of changes, from varieties to equipment used to harvest it.

The first combine he was on was pulled by a tractor.

The number of different wheat varieties has boomed.

"It used to be we had three," he said. "Now we have 50."

And now the McClellands grow safflowers.

"It was contracted before it went it," McClelland said.

Mike McClelland was happy with what he was seeing coming from the fields, with yields ranging from 35 to 40 bushels per acre.

They're now no-till farming and plant a crop in every field every year. That's the basis for safflowers, as something of a bridge crop.

Getting adequate rain has been the issue, however.

"We're getting to the point where we need a good rain," he said. "I'd take a couple days off for a good inch-and-a-half rain."

But Mike McClelland was quick to point the topic back to his father.

"He just lives for this," he said. "He can't wait for this."