If planting is a 100-yard dash, then harvest is a full blown marathon.

The last couple years were the kinds of races where you twist your ankle five miles in and your headphones go out in the first hour. So far this year harvest has gone pretty well with no major issues or breakdowns to the point where we had to quit (knock on wood), but that first rush excitement that we were all feeling a month ago has faded into the distance.

What hasn’t faded into the distance like a cowboy at the end of an old western, though, is the camaraderie of this little farming community.

Now I know I said before that there were no major breakdowns, but I didn’t mean that there were no breakdowns at all. Unfortunately, my beloved 8420 that we use to run the auger cart broke down two days into the start of cutting beans after she somehow managed to get a hole in the backside of the radiator. Of course it wasn’t going to be a quick fix and our other tractor we could put on the cart was sitting in the shop with a bearing out. No questions asked, the neighbor told us to go grab his tractor out of the shed and use it until we had a break to get ours good to go again.

While we’ve been pretty lucky all things considered so far this fall, last year was a different story. The shaft at the top of our grain leg snapped at 1 in the morning after a full day of shelling corn and at the beginning of a night of drying it. Without a working grain leg, we couldn’t keep harvesting. Luckily though, a neighbor had just taken down his old grain setup a couple months before and told dad to go through the pile of parts and take what we needed. Another couple of neighbors shut down their combine to come help us take the leg apart and then put it back together.

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Even in the years when everything runs smoothly, that harvest excitement has still managed to fade by the time you’re a month in. The days are long, and the nights are short, and everyone is getting tired and cranky.

And then at just about the time you’d be willing to make a heck of a deal with the devil to have just one single rain day for a break, the neighbor’s wife brings you a grocery sack full of snacks and a bottle of water. The secretary at the local fertilizer plant puts together a plastic baggie of all your favorite candy and delivers it to you. The ladies at the local diner write a sweet note of encouragement on the top of your Styrofoam to-go container.

These are the moments you don’t take good neighbors for granted, the times that make you so glad that you live in small town America. From helping you finish up harvest when you’re running behind and there’s rain in the forecast to something as simple as a quick text to ask if you need anything from the store, the value of a supportive community is not to be underestimated. May we know good neighbors, and may we be good neighbors, not just in harvest time, but all year round.

— Erin Holbert was born and raised on a farm in west central Indiana. Given her unique perspective in farming, a career dominated by men, the Mitchell Republic will be running her column on a monthly basis.