Wheat Shines in the Spotlight

Published from the High Plains Journal

Wheat shines in the spotlight

By Jennifer M. Latzke

Members of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, Oklahoma Genetics, Inc., and Oklahoma Wheat Research Foundation presented a $1.1 million check to the OSU wheat breeding program before the special screening of the “Great American Wheat Harvest” movie April 16. Much of the donation came from royalties earned by OSU-bred wheat varieties that were marketed through OGI. Gary Clark, OSU vice president, accepted the check. (Journal photo by Kylene Scott.)

It’s rare that farmers and custom harvesters get the red carpet treatment.

But at the recent screening of the documentary film “Great American Wheat Harvest,” wheat farmers and custom cutters finally got their due recognition.

An audience of about 200 gathered at the Oklahoma State University Student Union April 16 to view the film. The documentary follows three custom harvester crews on the harvest trail from Texas to Canada, including All Aboard Wheat Harvest correspondents Taylor Zeorian and Emma Misener.

The Misener family, of Misener Family Harvesters, Elk City, Okla., was on hand for the event. Dan Misener said that he and his family were happy to be a part of the movie because it serves as a great tool to promote agriculture and to show just what wheat harvest crews do for American consumers every year.

“This is a very real portrayal of what we do,” Misener said. Filming happened to fall in the midst of the worst drought covering much of the Great Plains, which presented a very real risk to custom cutters who have no insurance to fall back on when fields are unharvestable.

Director and Producer Conrad Weaver attended the screening and said it was a privilege to spend three years and more than 100,000 miles traveling up and down the trail to film the harvest crews and share their story with the public. Weaver said the idea to do this film came from his wife, who encouraged him to approach the topic.

“The general public needs to understand what goes on in agriculture, and what really goes on,” Weaver said. “This is real reality, not manufactured. It was filmed as it happened.” He found enough drama and inspiration naturally in telling the story of wheat harvesters who manage rising equipment and labor costs, Mother Nature’s moods, and traveling away from home for months on end.

The film has an Oklahoma connection. It features OSU wheat breeder Brett Carver, talking about the public wheat breeding at OSU and other land-grant universities. It also showed former Oklahoma Wheat Growers President Jimmy Musick, Sentinel, Okla., and Oklahoma Wheat Commission Executive Director Mike Schulte as they toured wheat fields in the state in the spring searching for freeze damage.

Much like harvest is a collaborative effort, so too was funding for the film, which came from a variety of industry and individual sponsors. Sponsors came from all segments of the industry, from state wheat commissions to equipment dealers and custom cutters themselves.

Just prior to the beginning of the film, the OWC, OWGA, Oklahoma Genetics, Inc., and the Oklahoma Wheat Research Foundation presented a $1.1 million check to the wheat breeding program at OSU, much of which came from royalties earned by wheat varieties bred by OSU and marketed through OGI. Dignitaries took to the stage to take a picture with Gary Clark, vice president of OSU, as he was presented the check.

The “Great American Wheat Harvest” film is now available to theaters for exhibition. Weaver said he’s working on getting it into as many theaters as possible to share the message of agriculture. Farmers can help spread the word by talking to their local independent theaters and asking them to bring the film to their community. It’s also available for pre-order on DVD and Blu-Ray via the film’s website, www.greatamericanwheatharvest.com.

The process of telling custom harvesters’ stories through this film was a privilege, Weaver said.

“Thank you,” Weaver said in his introduction of the film. “Thank you to the wheat farmers and those individuals who help them, from those of us who eat.”

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807 or by email at jlatzke@hpj.com.

Date: 4/28/2014

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