Travelling out west to work on the oil patch or up north to drive trucks is a well-documented phenomenon for Nova Scotians. Countless men and women do it each year to make ends meet, pay off debt or save money.
Woodville farmer Alex Greenough went out west last year to fulfill a life-long dream: he participated in what is known as a harvest run.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” said Greenough.
“To get my class 1 is why I went out, and to experience trucking and running a combine and heavier gear,” he said.
Greenough left his Hants County home for Hodgeville, Saskatchewan in June 2018.
“The Saskatchewan government and the farm I worked for paid to get my license and the experience of running a tractor-trailer. I took a trucking course out there,” he said.
And then he signed on to be a crew member with the harvest.
Starting out in Goodland, Kansas, a caravan of combines, grain carts and trucks harvested thousands upon thousands of acres of crops as it inched its way north as the crops ripened.
“In the southern states, the crops are always ready before up here in Canada because of the climate. So, we worked our way from Kanas to Colorado, through North and South Dakota, and Montana,” he said.
“It was 16-hour days, as long as the weather is right.”
Greenough, who works at Green Diamond Equipment and farms part-time, says it was hard being away from home but worthwhile professionally. He made lifelong friends, and gained valuable heavy machinery skills.
He suggests people interested in the agricultural industry should know that there are options to gain experience outside of working on the oil rigs.
“I think it’s an opportunity for young people, to go out, see that and experience it. It’ll open opportunities for them in the farming world,” Greenough said.
“(You gain) knowledge of equipment, work ethic and you learn to be self-sufficient when you’re very far away from everyone,” he added.
He met people from Canada, across the United States, Australia and South Africa working on the custom harvest.
Greenough estimates he helped harvest well over 10,000 acres of wheat, barley, lentils, canola, and corn during his four-month job.
When asked how much he harvests locally, he laughed and said it’s closer to about 200 acres.
“Out west, there’s a lot bigger gear and a lot bigger country than farming around here.”
He said participating in the harvest run is an eye-opening experience and he recommends it.
“A lot of guys go to the oil patch or they go out to work out west to work for a different reason. This is a farm-based opportunity,” said Greenough.
“It’s not a thing that a lot of guys do.”