Faces of Harvest: Ochs Family, Syracuse

Posted July 12, 2017

Want to ride in the combine with Amaya? Take a look at our Facebook Live with her here!

Just like many other high school sophomores, Amaya Ochs from Hamilton County, Kansas, likes to listen to music while cruising in the car with her friends and play with her dog at home, but most of all, she loves the country life on the farm.

But unlike many others, she wasn’t just excited to drive her mother’s old Volkswagon to school. No, this summer she had a bigger vehicle on her driving list – her father’s combine.

Amaya and her two brothers have been helping on the farm since they were toddlers. Her mom is an EMT and is often on call, so the three siblings spend hours with their dad, especially during wheat harvest.

Their long days during wheat harvest begin about 8:00 a.m. and they cut until 10:00 at night. With no time for lunch breaks, Amaya brings snacks to eat during the day and her aunt Christi brings dinner to the field in an old camper they bought a few years ago. This gives the family a break in the air conditioning and out of the wind to eat their dinner.

During this year’s harvest, the Ochs family had some additional helpers travel to western Kansas to help. Amaya’s grandfather came from Pennsylvania and her uncle traveled from New York.

“I guess they just decided they wanted to come out for harvest and help this year,” said Amaya.

The rest of the crew includes Amaya’s dad Jason and uncle Justin, who took over the farm from their parents in 2011. Jason farms full-time and serves on the Kansas Wheat Commission, while Justin works for Skyland Grain and helps in the evenings and weekends whenever he can. A couple of family friends help drive the grain cart and take the semis to the elevators.

Ochs family farm, Plum Creek Farms, consists of 7,500 acres of wheat, grain sorghum and corn and is spread out all over Hamilton County. Jason says finding labor, constant regulations and diseases can make farming difficult. He’s thankful that his kids enjoy the farm so much.

The Ochs family plants exclusively hard white wheat, rather than hard red winter like most other farmers in the state. The varieties Joe, Clara CL and Antero performed well this year, even with widespread Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus in the county this year.

“I don’t know how I’m so blessed, but my fields and yields are looking really well this year,” said Jason.

Although there can be obstacles when it comes to farming, he says there are good times and memories it can bring as well. A fond memory of wheat harvest he has was when his two oldest children, Amaya and Connor, practically took over harvest last year.

“They really enjoyed it. It was neat to see how much they cared and wanted to help and the quality of the job they did for the age they were and how well they stuck in there. That was pretty awesome,” said Jason.

Amaya says her favorite thing to do on her family farm is to drive the combine during wheat harvest. She takes driving the combine during harvest as a learning opportunity for the future. After high school, she is planning to go to Kansas State University to become a veterinarian and also hopes to come back to the family farm.