Don’t sacrifice your tomorrow by being unsafe during harvest today


The mornings are crisper. There’s more and more fall babies showing up in the pastures. The leaves are starting to change. It means one thing on our farm … harvest season is arriving very shortly.

Here on our farm in Northeast Kansas, we have corn and soybeans to harvest. We start with silage chopping season in September then move right in to harvest season combined with cover crop drilling not stopping until we’re done, hopefully by the end of October — weather permitting. It’s a long two months. You know this.

Last harvest season, we were pushing hard, like everyone. We were trying to get the beans out in that perfect window where they’re ready and not popping out. It had been a long day. It was late. It was starting to get tough. But there were still lights going in all the fields around us so they wanted to keep going. I told my husband, Matt, that I needed to go home to feed our bottle calf, Walter. He was going to have to bring the combine to the grain cart or truck when he was full, if he wanted to keep rolling.

I get a couple miles from the field when I get a call that the head broke down. I asked if I needed to come back. Matt said he was just going to look at what was broke so he would know what tools to bring in the morning. I continued on the way home. When I was a couple miles from home, I get another call. Matt said, “I cut my fingers open, I’m on the way to the ER” and hung up.

I had just left the field with the only pickup. The combine, grain cart, and grain truck were the only options left for him to be driving. I didn’t know how bad he was bleeding, apparently pretty badly if he was going to the ER, and I was pretty sure he shouldn’t be driving any of those options to the hospital.

I turned around and headed straight to the hospital. Luckily we were cutting at the field that is only a couple miles from the hospital, and he could take back roads directly to the rear entrance. When I got to the hospital, the grain truck was pulled right up to the ER door, still running. He was trying to take the broken sickle out of the head and it sliced through his glove and cut his first two fingers on his right hand, his dominant hand. They stitched him up and sent him on his way. My dad came and helped the next couple days. By the next Monday morning, he was sure he didn’t have gripping ability or the ability to bend the tip of his index finger.

We went to see a hand specialist that week. The doctor looked at it for approximately 18 seconds and said, “Your tendon is cut. We need to do surgery on it in two days.” The surgeon also said that it might already have been too long since the accident and we might have to do two surgeries.

Thank goodness that in the week between the accident and the surgeon visit, we finished cutting.

kelsey matt pagel kansas farmers

Long story even longer, surgery was completed and Matt couldn’t do anything with his dominant hand for eight weeks. He wore a splint and did physical therapy on his finger for five to 15 minutes every hour (except sleeping hours) for those 8 weeks.

I tell you this whole event to remind you that there is a tomorrow. I understand running long hours. I understand that crops have a certain window that is best. I understand that this is literally our income. I understand.

I’m a farmer and a farmer’s wife. I wear both hats. I understand farmers’ tendencies. I understand the need to go during go times, but more important to me than the crops in the field is that I get to go to bed with my husband. And I get to wake up with him the next morning and continue chasing our dreams. I know several of you have gotten those calls that wake us up and remind us what’s truly important.

But we forget. We forget just how precious this life is. How blessed we are to do the things we’re doing. It only takes a few seconds, and you don’t get to do all the things anymore.

As harvest season approaches I wish you a bountiful harvest. I wish you good prices. I wish you minimal break downs. But most of all I wish that none of us will have to get a phone call that stops us in our tracks.


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.

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