Conrad Weaver, president and owner of ConjoStudios, LLC, was at this year’s Ag Connect conference in Kansas City, and shared details about his documentary, “Great American Wheat Harvest,” which he described as “the documentary film story of the wheat harvest, from Texas to Canada.”
The film will follow the combine harvesters from May until October, when the crews take their trucks, combines and RVs on the road to harvest wheat in the heart of the Midwest.
“The film will tell the story,” Conrad said. “It takes a whole network of people to provide food for our world. And wheat production is no exception. From laboratories that develop seeds to the shipping companies that deliver wheat to the mills, there are so many parts to bringing bread to our tables.”
While the film will cover all aspects from field to table, the highlight is the harvest and the crews who work, live and breathe this way of life. “Where I live, they don’t have a clue that these harvesters are six to eight months on the road,” he said.
The crew is following a variety of harvest groups and Conrad said the one theme he has heard throughout is, “Some say every year they think they will get out, but when spring comes, they find they are addicted to this lifestyle and wouldn’t think of anything else.
“I am working with five different harvest crews. There are family-centered operations, up to large operators with five to six combines and 10 to 12 guys. The story is so interesting because of the diversity of the crews.”
Conrad grew up on a dairy farm in Ohio and helped milk cows, bale hay and cultivate corn. He is not a farm boy these days, though he still has a number of family members who farm.
“When I worked for my grandpa and uncle I heard about the harvest for a long time. Then, two years ago, I was reading the ‘All Aboard (Wheat) Harvest Blog’ (part of the High Plains Journal). My wife suggested that I shoot a documentary about it.”
He said she meant it as a joke – but Conrad, being a filmmaker and filled with a love of agriculture and educating the public, took the idea to heart. “I started thinking about it and talking the U.S. Custom Harvest operation and Tracey Zeorian, who was then president of the association. Her daughter, Jenna, was one of the bloggers.”
The conversation continued and soon, U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. was the first sponsor for the documentary. “They got me rolling to produce the film,” Conrad said.
U.S. Custom Harvesters is an association of professional custom harvesters serving the needs of the American farmer. Established and chartered in 1983 in Texas, it serves as a link between the harvester and people they work with, such as farmers, other businesses and state and federal government.
The documentary is firmly under way. “I started production a year ago at the Deere Harvester Works in Moline,” Conrad explained.
There, his crew filmed the head of one of the big harvester teams picking up a new combine. “We got to see it being built,” he added.
“We are in production for the rest of the year. In March and April we are filming preparation for harvest, then in May we will head to Vernon, Texas, for the start of harvest. I will go out weeks at a time and follow them as they travel.” There is even one harvest crew from Saskatchewan, that is part of the Canadian Custom Harvest Group.
“My goal is to release this on Ag Day in March 2014, in Washington, D.C.,” Conrad said. “Beyond that we plan a Wheat Belt tour in limited theaters.” He is talking with Discovery and PBS about possible airing options.
To get updates and follow the progress of this educational documentary, log onto www.greatamericanwheatharvest.com
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.