Photos: Minnesota farm family's corn harvest is labor of love


Thousands of pounds of corn flow from combine to tractor trailer.
1 Thousands of pounds of corn flow out of a combine into a tractor trailer on the Collins Family Farms on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. On a good day, they can harvest 26,000 bushels of corn a day — more than 1 million pounds, according to Nathan Collins. 
Debris flies through the air as corn is transferred to a tractor.
2 Debris of shredded corn stalks and husks fly through the air as harvested corn kernels pour into a tractor trailer. 
Sean Collins drives a truck to the storage site.
3 Sean Collins drives a truck full of corn toward the setting sun and the storage site. Since they took over the farm from their parents in 2007, Sean has driven the truck while his brother, Nathan, drives the combine. 
Jonathan Collins rides in the backseat of his dad's truck.
4 Four-year-old Jonathan Collins rides in the backseat of his father's truck as Sean hauls corn from the fields to storage a few miles away. "He loves riding around in the back," Sean said. "The engine normally lulls him to sleep." 
The sun sets on the grain storage site.
5 Evening light hits a grain storage bin sitting behind an empty concrete platform where another bin stood until it was damaged in a storm that also knocked down large swaths of corn. 
Sean Collins eats dinner in the fields.
6 Sean Collins eats chicken pot pie cooked by his niece while taking a break. This time of year, Sean and Nathan are rarely home, so their wives and children often join them for meals out in the fields and for rides in the trucks and tractors. 
The combine lights up corn debris.
7 Lights from the combine illuminate debris from harvesting corn as the harvest presses on into the evening. A September storm flattened many of the corn stalks in this field, causing them to pile up instead of feeding into the combine. 
The sun sets on Collins Family Farms.
8 The sun sets under a crescent moon as the combine and tractor work late into the night. 
Sean and Nathan clear off the head of the combine.
9 Brothers Sean, left, and Nathan Collins clear corn stalks off the head of their combine. "This might be the worst field we've ever had," Nathan said. 
Nathan Collins cleans off the combine head.
10 Nathan Collins gets out of the combine to clear flattened corn stalks from the combine's head. Despite the combine's technological capabilities, including GPS mapping, auto steering and Bluetooth, Nathan pays close attention to the machine. "You have to use all five senses," he said. "You can smell hot oil or hear when something gets stuck." 
The sun rises over corn stalks.
11 Corn stalks bend in the wind as the sun lights up clouds in the early morning of Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017. During the harvest, the Collins brothers and their employees meet at the farm before sunrise to plan for the day and then work in the fields until long after dark. 
Nathan Collins drives his combine.
12 "This is my vacation," Nathan Collins said from the driver's seat of the combine, adding that working 90 hours in a week is not a big deal this time of year, and he cherishes the time out of the office. 
A tractor drives through a corn field.
13 A tractor moves through a partially harvested corn field. In addition to raising corn and soybeans, the brothers run a small trucking company and recently purchased a cattle feed lot. Nathan said diversification is key to keeping their businesses afloat. 
Corn cobs sits on the head of a combine.
14 Corn cobs sit on the head of a combine before being pulled in, where the machine separates the kernel from the cobs, and ejects the cob, stalk and husk behind the tractor and back on to the fields. Every acre of the farm is managed meticulously, and the brothers measure the efficiency of fertilizer, precipitation and different varieties to maximize their profits. 
Nathan Collins looks out over one of the farm's fields.
15 Nathan Collins looks out over one of the fields from behind the wheel of the combine. "What we worry about is that people forget that 'sustainability' also means us being able to feed our families," he said. 
Sean Collins measures corn moisture.
16 Sean Collins measures the moisture of the latest truckload of corn he's brought from the fields to the farm's storage site. 
Sean Collins unloads a semi truck full of corn.
17 Sean Collins unloads a semi trailer full of corn into a hopper. After he dumps the corn into a hopper, it moves up a tube and into the dryer. After cycling through the dryer, it is moved into dry storage bins where it stays until it is sold. 
Corn flows into a hopper before being dried for storage.
18 Thousands of kernels of corn flow into a hopper. The majority of the crop is used for ethanol and as feed for local dairy farms. 
Nathan Collins takes a rest outside the combine.
19 Nathan Collins takes a break after a morning of combining.