This collection consists of 58.7 hours of audio files and the accompanying transcripts of oral history interviews with custom harvesters. Those interviewed were all from the United States except for one participant from Saskatchewan, Canada. American participants were from Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, or North Dakota. The time period discussed in the interviews ranges from pre-World War II to 2010, with first-person accounts of harvest from the 1950s to 2010. All persons interviewed were retired or working custom harvesters, yet the project has a distinct group of interviews, 21.5 hours in length, exclusively with Mennonite custom harvesters. The interviews with Mennonite custom harvesters began when Mr. Schmidt recommended interviewing Waldo and Doris Froese of Inman, KS, one of the communities in the Mennonite settlement area of south-central Kansas. Other communities include Buhler and Moundridge. Dr. Holcomb then recruited others in this area for a separate project, which included interview questions pertaining specifically to Mennonite custom harvesters. Dr. Holcomb received grant funding from the Kansas Humanities Council for the Mennonite project, with sponsorship from the Mennonite Heritage & Agricultural Museum in Goessel, KS, which he used to pay for travel and transcription expenses. There is a subject index of the transcripts of the interviews with Mennonites.
Dr. Holcomb obtained 244 complimentary photos and news articles from participants to augment the interviews. Photos were either from the personal collections of those interviewed or were taken by the research team. There are two photo keys that provide captions for the photos. All interviews were conducted between 2008 and 2010. Interview questions were in the broad categories of family history and background, labor, origins of custom harvesting as a vocation, the work of custom harvesting, identity and lifestyle, equipment, places along the harvest route, changes in the communities where they harvest, crops harvested, weather, hardships, meals, lodging, relationships, and sense of place. Dr. Holcomb asked Mennonite participants additional questions, including details about their faith, the relationship between faith and their work, pacifism, and the alternative service conscientious objectors performed.