OAKLEY, Kan. – Most of the time, Mary Arlington promotes her 55-site campground in northwest Kansas as a quiet place for weary travelers to unwind as they travel across the country.
But this week, there isn’t any campground in America that’s busier than High Plains Camping, a 55-site campground in the middle of nowhere, roughly half way between Kansas City and Denver.
The only difference is their clientele. Arlington’s guests are farm workers, young farm workers who travel across the country in RVs, harvesting America’s wheat. The harvesting companies are from Texas, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana and even Canada, and the crews are mostly from the same regions, but sometimes include young men and women from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
“These guys not only bring their RVs, but they travel with combines, grain trucks and other farm equipment, which they leave in the farm fields,” she said. “They were in Oklahoma and Texas as couple of days ago. Now they’re in Kansas, and from here, they will fan out across the Midwest. Some will go to Nebraska. Others to the Dakotas and Colorado. Some of them will ultimately keep heading north into Canada as the wheat ripens.”
Arlington, a former Ohio resident who bought the campground in 2002, previously knew nothing about the wheat harvest or about the bands of farm workers who travel across the Midwest in RVs, harvesting the grain that will be used in countless food products, both here and overseas.
But she said she has developed a healthy respect for them and the work they do. “These are very hard working American boys,” she said, adding, “They bust their butts so that you can have a loaf of bread.”
Arlington said seven crews are staying at High Plains Camping right now. They typically leave the campground by 9 a.m. and don’t return until after midnight, after their work for the day is done.
“I’m up until one in the morning myself, making sure everything is OK and that they have what they need,” she said.
While the visiting farm workers usually do their own cooking in camp, they also fill the seats at the restaurant next to Arlington’s campground and patronize other businesses in the neighboring town of Oakley, population 1,800.
Arlington said she gets a kick of the reaction of vacationers who call her remote campground thinking they won’t have any trouble finding a space, only to find that the entire park is booked. “Walk-ins take a real chance of being disappointed,” she said.
These farm workers, of course, are not Arlington’s usual clientele, who normally consist of RVers heading east or west on Interstate 70 or snowbirds heading to or from Canada and other northern states along U.S. 83. “In another week, the farm workers will have moved on to another campground or RV park in the Midwest and I’ll have my usual clientele once again,” Arlington said.
High Plains Camping features 55 pull-through sites with 30 and 50 amp service, free Wi-Fi, propane service, bathrooms and showers, three hot tubs, a recreation hall, an organic garden, a miniature golf course and a large campground store. More information is available at www.highplainscamping.com.
High Plains Camping is affiliated with Best Parks in America and is also a member of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which represents privately owned and operated campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the country. For more information about camping trends and story ideas involving America’s campgrounds, please contact Linda Profaizer at (303) 681-0401 and visit www.GoCampingAmerica.com.