If you want a working vacation, head for America's breadbasket Adventure: You can sign on to harvest wheat, but be prepared to work hard.

Travel Q&A

December 29, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

I would like to join one of the wheat harvesting crews that travel in America's breadbasket. Do you know of any "working vacation" opportunities?

This is one way to get a suntan, but be warned, the emphasis is on working rather than vacation when it comes to the wheat harvest, where crews may work 80 to 90 hours a week to get the job done.

Wheat harvests are handled by crews that start in Texas and Oklahoma in May and move toward the Canadian border, where the wheat harvest ends in late October. Crews range from five people up to 20 or 30, depending on the number of combines they have.

Although this is serious business, a lack of experience is not necessarily a drawback. A clean driving record is important, and a commercial driver's license is a valuable asset, according to Ellouise House, the executive secretary for the United States Customer Harvesters in Tulia, Texas, an organization that has more than 1,000 members in the United States.

House said the door was open even to those with no experience. "If they want to work for a week, I can fix them up, as long as they have a good driving record," she said. "We take a lot of young men and train them. Harvesters are good at that. They're always in need of help."

That is the case even in a year like this one, when drought has taken its toll on wheat crops, she said.

You would probably work as a truck driver, although you might also be able spend some time on a combine; since those machines cost an average of $125,000 to $150,000, their owners "won't just turn you loose," she added.

The pay is typically $1,000 a month plus lodging (in a bunk trailer) and room and board, although it would depend on whether you were really working with the crew or more of an observer. Contact the Harvesters at Post Office Box 33, Tulia, Texas 79088; (806) 995-4664.

Incidentally, you are not the first person to have this idea. Leland Fanning, a farmer in Morrisville, N.Y., spent a week with a crew cutting wheat in Montana two years ago on a trip arranged by Country magazine in Greendale, Wis., as part of a feature called "My Country Fantasy." The Harvesters Association helped the magazine fulfill Mr. Fanning's wish, and the magazine later published his account of his experience.

Pub Date: 12/29/96

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