Gleaner is a Family Tradition

Gleaner combines are a given in this custom harvesting operation, but not just because “that’s how it has always been.” Customers demand clean grain, and the Wagner family is happy to “spoil” them with Gleaner.

How much of a tradition is custom harvesting in the Wagner family?

Brayde Wagner had has first date with his girlfriend in a Gleaner combine.

His father, Jason, was helping with the family’s custom operation as early as six years old, and Jason’s brother, Josh, tests prototype combines for AGCO.

Their father and Brayde’s grandfather, Darrell, was such a custom harvesting legend that he was inducted into the U.S. Custom Harvesters Hall of Fame in 2015.

The S97 loaded and ready for the trip.

The family has photo archives of harvesting work going back decades. Times and machines change, but the color of the combine does not; the Wagners are silver, all the way.

“I’ve thought about changing colors,” says Jason, sitting in front of their current flagship machine, the Gleaner S97. “But every time I think about it… I know these combines, I rely on these combines, they pay my bills. I think we’re just going to stay with it and carry on the family tradition.”

Gleaner combines have been in the Wagner family for generations.

Tradition is all well and good, but building a generational reputation as a custom cutter means delivering for customers, and that means solid service on the ground and clean grain at the elevator. “We’ve had many other (brands) come out, and I say, ‘If you can give me a better sample and do better on the ground, we’ll have one.’ And as you can see,” Jason, says, pointing around the farm shop, “we ain’t got one. Ain’t none of them been able to outdo (Gleaner) yet.”

Through generations of being part of the Great Silver Fleet, Jason says the S97 is the most impressive yet. “In the 57 years we’ve had Gleaner on the farm, this is the best sample machine,” he says. “I talk to my customers… I kinda spoiled them. That’s more money in their pocket.”

Running Gleaner also helps keep their business on schedule, crucial for custom cutters, even in less than ideal conditions. “Summer time, we’ll find mud,” says Jason. “And I’m 12,000 pounds lighter with this S97 than the other ones. It won’t tear up the fields.”

The Wagners’ R75s on wheat.

Brother Josh agrees, but also points out that the machine is simple to run. “Friends run in different colors, but it’s the simplicity of this machine,” he says. “Once you’re in it long enough, it’s like riding a bicycle.”

And the Wagners have been riding those wheels for decades. How much of a tradition is Gleaner in the Wagner family?

When Darrell passed in 2019, he was carried in his funeral procession by the family’s Gleaner S97. “I think he would have liked it,” says Josh. “He was a combine man through and through.”