It’s all downhill from here! While fall harvest continues on our central Kansas farm, the difference from harvesting the corn in August compared to beginning to harvest sorghum now is we can see the finish line ahead of us!

In all of my years on the farm, I know that the closer we get to Thanksgiving, the closer we are to wrapping up our fall farming requirements. I also know that we’re getting closer to the end of this season because all the wheat has now been sown.  

It’s a great feeling to know that things on the farm we’ve put lower on the list of priorities will start getting some attention.  

Soon, we’ll move equipment into the shop for the winter, spend some quality time deep cleaning the house and office, and I’ll begrudgingly tackle piles of laundry. The cattle will be moved to winter pasture, the ram will be turned out with the ewes, and the migratory birds will present their patterns in the sky above.

In all, for our operation, we’ll have much more flexibility in our days compared to what we’ve had over the last few months.

It’s during this relatively flexible season where we often attend more meetings, take trips out of town with the family, RSVP to weddings without hesitation, regularly attend school events and generally feel better about firmly committing to requests instead of taking the “I can do that if it rains” approach.

Simply put, once we reach that fall harvest and planting finish line, we can be more available. Available to our family. Available to our friends. Available to our communities.  

One of the many areas that would absolutely welcome our availability is within our local schools. Schools are in desperate need of emergency substitutes. Whether it’s filling in for a classroom teacher, para educator, kitchen staff, office staff, or bus driver, schools need help from those who are available. 

It’s a national issue that I know all too well having multiple family and friends working in public education. I also know the need because of what we are experiencing with our own children.

Recently we were notified our school district was again consolidating bus routes because of a lack of regular drivers and substitute drivers available. Our school district communicated to us that it could take up to two and a half to three hours for some of our rural route kids to get home from school on consolidated routes.

You might not want to fully commit to driving a bus or being called whenever a substitute is needed for an entire school year. But in Kansas, there are allowances for emergency substitutes – both in the school building and transporting school kids. 

For example, there is an allowance to waive a number of requirements to allow for emergency substitute bus drivers. The major catch is the emergency bus driver can drive no more than five days during a school year. 

If you have your CDL, a quick trip to your local DMV to pass some written and skills-based tests to receive your “passenger” and “school bus” endorsements will likely make you available for your local school district as an emergency substitute bus driver. 

If you can be available for five days during your slower season to help drive a bus of FFA students to an event, to get the choir students to a contest, to allow a class of students to experience a field trip, to transport a sports team to their game or to promptly get kiddos to or from school, please consider contacting your local school district or the Kansas State Department of Education’s School Bus Safety Unit to confirm you qualify.

Additionally, if you have your high school diploma, you’re likely eligible to help serve as a substitute within Kansas school buildings per temporary modifications for emergency substitute licensing.

Whether you can be available for a couple days to help out as an emergency substitute bus driver, or by helping in a school building, many of us in agriculture may be inching closer and closer to wrapping up fall activities on our operations. 

As you get closer to your fall harvest finish line, consider reaching out to your local school district and see how your upcoming season of increased flexibility and availability can be of help to school staff and students during to your slower season on the farm.