But even in the hardest years, farming and ranching reveal the beauty in summer sun and winter snow — and certainly under the rainbow.
In November, we asked readers to submit their photos that show the beauty in agriculture in 2020. The 54 entries show beauty in a variety of ways and a variety of places, beyond even just the Upper Midwest. Readers voted on Agweek's Facebook and Instagram pages.
Our winning entry, from Kelsey Wolf of B&B Wolf Farms, Blooming Prairie, Minn., shows a combine sporting an American flag at nearly the exact center of a full rainbow. She took it at the beginning of harvest on a day where they were able to keep cutting through several short downpours.
"The scattered showers set up a beautiful background for some awesome farm photos," she said. "I was running the grain cart and had to quickly jump out for a mini farm photoshoot when a full rainbow appeared!"
Everything, she said, seems more beautiful on the farm.
"Of course, rainbows represent God's promise to the world; so with seeing a symbol of Him looking over us on our first day of harvest 2020, it reminds us to have hope and faith," she said, noting that farming takes both. "I think it truly shows how blessed we are to not only spend our lives farming with our family but also to have a bountiful harvest at the end of such a difficult year."
2020 western Minnesota soybean harvest. (Tony Loomer)
Tony Loomer took the second place photo, of a Case combine with a MacDon header harvesting soybeans in western Minnesota. The photo showed one beautiful thing many in the region experienced in 2020: a pleasant harvest.
"Harvest this year was fantastic in comparison to the two previous years," Loomer said. "Dry ground conditions and dry grain moistures lead to rapid progress in harvested acres per day, and the yield was decent for the most part."
He took the photo on the first day of soybean harvest. Things were going well after "the initial first day blues," he said. His boss's father, a regular AgweekTV viewer, suggested he enter the contest.
"I like this photo because I took it from the tractor cab while unloading on the go (the boss doesn’t pose for pictures), and the sun lowering in the west along with the dust flying seemed to capture what grain cart operators get to see often, things purring along and the beauty of harvest," he said.
The third place photo came from Kelly Lahren of Mobridge, S.D., and featured snow falling on a traditional red barn. The photo conjured up feelings of peace and quiet, according to some of the voters who commented on Agweek's Facebook page, and certainly was fitting for the holidays.
Lahren said the photo was taken during the first "and so far only snow of the season."
"The barn is very old and although in need of repair still serves us well during calving and never seems to disappoint for a great photo in any weather," she said.
Here are the rest of the entrants. Enjoy!
"I pass by this beautiful barn weekly and finally stopped to grab a quick photo," (Becky Foster, Yell County, Ark.)
Harvesting corn in southeast South Dakota with a smoky sunset. (Josh Bialas)
In the Harvest sunset appeared a cross. May we all give thanks, praise, and blessings to the land we love and to the Lord above. (Brittany Vaughn)
Canadian harvest evening. (Richard Wileman)
He finished the wheat harvest before the rain. (Mary Stangohr)
“When I was young I farmed with this John Deere A,” Grandpa said. (Diane Spoerl)
"It had been a long day combining barley. I had already missed a step on the way up in to the combine in a hurry and scraped my whole shin on the grated metal steps. I stood at the top of the steps to get out my leg hurt, my thighs hurt from crawling up and down semis and bins and combine ladders. It was a long way down but farming is definitely worth all the aches, pains, and stress." (Carie M. Moore)
The first day of corn harvest 2020 put the beauty of harvest on display. (Chip Grube)
The attached photo was taken by me near Minto, ND on our family farm. (Patti Bjorneby)
Late August sunset in north central Montana. God is good. (No name given)
Friday Night Lights. (Steph Haugen)
Wheat harvest southwest of Gackle, N.D. (Isaac Huber)
Bins at sunset on a November Saturday. (Rod Oppegard)
Race to the finish, with Mother Nature closing in. Packing away the harvest of 2020. (Marlowe Lamb)
Our dog’s favorite way to spend her day....Dog Days of Harvest. (Bonnie Locken)
Moon rising in the eastern sky over the sugar beets. (Dale Twedell)
The attached photo was taken at 7:28 P.M. on October 7, 2020 as day was drawing to a close on corn harvest and depicts the sunset looking toward the MaxYield Cooperative grain elevator site located in Langdon, Iowa. (Tim Chapman)
Harvest Sunset. (Lonnie Sager)
Little pigs are happiest outdoors playing in clean hay. Curious little creatures, this one came over to check me out. (Rachel Brag)
"My dad built and welded a special seat onto a tractor so he could give my kids rides down to his beautiful pasture overlooking the Vermillion River." (Erica Bergman)
"Cotton Candy Wheat Field: On Monday, July 20, 2020, the morning's fog was rolling out fast, so I grabbed my camera and sprinted out in the dewy grass towards the wheat field. The purple weeds in the foreground matched the crazy cotton candy sky. I do like that you can sort of see the windbreak peeking out." (Betsy Armour)
A beautifull harvest day on the farm. In southeast Minnesota. (Lisa Kirtz)
"My husband and I were out for a drive and I captured this photo of my in-laws’ cow enjoying the frosty morning." (Amber Benoit)
After the Storm. (Jon Wert)
Morning during fall harvest at Columbia Grain. (John Triebold)
Shaun the sheep smiling after his fresh shearing. (Manda Tumberg)
Grass hay baled and taken July 3, 2020, near Hoople, N.D. Patriotic way to start the 4th of July Weekend. (Bill Bjorneby)
"Picture of squirrel eating apple on one of our apple trees. Fall 2020." (Joe Kostecki)
Beans at Sunrise in Alvarado, Minn. (Natosha Mathsen)
Bringing cows into preg test them and wean off the calves. Southeastern Montana. (Caitlyn McCollum)
"One of our fields in September outside of Herreid, S.D." (Patricia Pudwill)
"This is a picture of our combine during our wheat harvest, it just goes to show that there’s still a lot beauty in hard work!" (Sutton Flint)
A girl and her puppy running on bales. (Amanda Odegaard)
A thunderstorm rolling across the prairie. Photo taken in late July of 2020, on our farm near Edinburg, N.D. (Doug Langerud)
"Friendship and Farming -- Even after 50 years of friendship, Robert Kleven (left harvester) and James Bergman (right harvester) still enjoy each other's company, especially during sugar beet harvest." (Katie Kleven)
"I took this a few weeks ago when we were moving our cow herd to their winter grazing. Our 89 year old neighbor lady Pearl is out front with the tractor leading the way and my family is on horseback." (Kary Lindgren)
Stud quarter horses, Sir Carmel & Prince peeking out from behind the pine tree in the snow covered farm yard. (Angela Brown-Jodock)
Raking CRP hay along the Goose River in Grand Forks County, N.D. (Marlo Jodock)
Snow Trails to Hay (Jolene Steffen)
Summer sunset in a sunflower field. (Polly Wyrich-Ulrich)
Working ground on a cloudless evening after sunset. (John Bartsch)
"Taken near Lisbon, N.D., on Samsung camera phone. The reflection of the flying one is so neat, had to share." (Todd Wallner)
Fumigation rigs in Wadena, Minn. (Barry Bowers)