Matthew Barnes, 21, from Kent, England, throws back a cold one at the Protection Country Club around midnight. The club is the only place out of four restaurants that stays open at night until all the harvesters are fed. Barnes is an exchange student working with a program at Ohio State University, which teams up with Rick Farris' custom cutters for a summer in the field.
Five combines, with heads spanning a total of 135 feet, make a wide swath through a wheat field north of Protection. The combines empty their holding bins into grain trucks that move alongside the stair-stepped cutters. The trucks take turns driving to the grain elevator to weigh and deposit the farmer's yield.
The lights atop a combine illuminate a field as workers hustle into the night south of Protection. Grain elevators demand that all wheat should have less than 12-percent humidity before being accepted into the silo, prompting farmers to begin cutting once the morning humidity has lifted. Most start cutting about noon and end close to midnight.
A combine cuts wheat as the sun sets in an 80-acre field south of Protection, Kan. Rick Farris' custom cutter crew cuts between 9,000-10,000 acres of wheat in Kansas each year and approximately 17,000-19,000 acres in all of the U.S.
A line of three combines cut a swath approximately 60-feet-wide in a field south of Protection, Kan. The crew worked from noon until midnight on Wednesday.
A truck hauling grain roars into the Protection Coop grain elevator to dump its load as Aaron Sawyers passes the entrance. Wheat sold for $3.01 per bushel on Wednesday in Protection, Kan.
Custom cutter Matt Longawa, 18, from Grainfield, buses tables at Don's Cafe in Protection. Longawa, who worked at a restaurant before being picked up by Rick Farris' custom cutter crew, cleaned up after his crew to help the waitresses during a busy lunch hour.
Stubble is all that's left after four combines make a clean swath across a wheat field south of Protection, Kan. Five combines cut an 80-acre field in about one hour on Wednesday.
Custom cutter Rick Farris, left, negotiates with wheat farmer Randy Eddy in his 160-acre field north of Protection. "It's awfully hard to pass on these (fuel) increases to farmers," Farris said. "They're having a real struggle out here right now."
At 11 p.m., Matt Longawa, left, and Pat Farris fuel up the tank on their service vehicle at the Protection Co-op in Protection. A combine requires between $300 and $425 for one tank of diesel fuel.
Ben Stokes tops off his combine with diesel fuel just before midnight in Protection, Kan. Custom cutters have experienced a spike of nearly 10 percent in their fuel prices.
Aaron Sawyers turns away from the dust that is kicked up as a truck unloads its grain into a pit at the Protection Coop. A conveyor belt then transports the grain into the appropriate holding bin before it goes to market in Haviland.
A combine unloads its yeild into a grain truck in a field south of Protection, Kan.
An old chevrolet grain truck navigates Highway 160 on its way back to the field south of Protection. Unlike the migrating harvest crews, local farmers mostly rely on a mix of old and new equipment.
A tractor dots the landscape looking west from the top of the Protection Coop.
Framed by stalks of uncut wheat, a 39-foot combine makes a wide swath in a field south of Protection, Kan. Rick Farris' custom cutter crew cut a total of 450 acres on Wednesday around Protection, Kan.
Jon Sawyers is greeted by a sign advertising the price of wheat at the Protection Coop in Protection. Many farmers were pleased with the price of $3.01 per bushel and reported an above-average wheat harvest.
A head of wheat hangs heavy at sunset before being harvested in a field south of Protection. Farmers reported yields of 30-75 bushels an acre in Comanche County, a good wheat crop for most.