Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 18, 2013

No slowing down this farmer

Farmer still going strong almost 65 years after he first climbed on combine

BY JOHN J. HOPKINS john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — CAMBRIA — Kicking up a cloud of dust as it slowly rolled through a nearly 50-acre wheat field in Cambria, the John Deere combine made its way toward a tractor-trailer to drop off its load.

The crop — winter wheat — was efficiently transferred from the combine to the truck and the driver turned around to make another pass at Morning-Dale Farms.

Just another day in the fields for 84-year-old Wilbert Milleville, who still drives the combines for Sanborn-based Milleville Farms, now operated by his sons.

“I’d rather be doing this than working,” cracked Milleville. “This is all I’ve ever known.”

Still, Ron Wendt, 82, is amazed that Milleville still climbs up the combines and harvests the fields. Wendt said the days of operating a combine have passed him by.

Modern combines are far different from what Milleville first operated some 65 years ago. Today’s machines feature enclosed cabs with air conditioning and a radio. Digital instruments tell the driver how fast it’s moving, the yield per acre, moisture in the yield and almost any other information imaginable.

Combine harvesters get their name from the tasks they do: reaping, harvesting and winnowing grain crops in a single process. After the grain is stripped from the stems, the waste straw is left behind, to be baled and used for feed or bedding for livestock.

According to Milleville, he’s been operating combines since he was 18 years old. He said he liked it then and he still does.

“It used to be such a dirty job,” Milleville added. “The dust would kick up and come right at you. At the end of the day you’d be covered in dust; all you’d see was the whites of your eyes.”

Farming is definitely in Milleville’s blood. His father and grandfather were both farmers and even his grandchildren are farmers.

All these years later, Milleville said he doesn’t think there’s anything about the lifestyle he doesn’t like.

“My grandmother used to say ‘happiness is not doing what you like to do, but liking what you have to do,’ “ Milleville said.

Wendt, who owns Morning-Dale Farms, rents the 50-acre field (Milleville contends it’s 48 acres) to Milleville Farms.

“It’s the best field I’ve ever owned,” Wendt said of the property he purchased after his original property was taken by eminent domain to make way for Niagara County Community College.

Milleville is pleased with this year’s crop.

“This year has been real good,” Milleville said, noting he’s getting about 80 bushels per acre. That’s 2,150 cubic inches. “I used to think that 60 bushels (per acre) was good.”

With the winter wheat harvested, the field will remain empty for the rest of the year. It will be tilled in the fall and in 2014 a different crop will be planted. Milleville said next year the field might host soybeans, oats or corn.

Wendt first rented out his field to the Millevilles a few years ago. He said it’s been 8-10 years; Milleville said 4-5 years. The two seemed to counter each other’s claims about everything, but they have a mutual respect for each other.

“They’ve been very good to me,” Wendt said.