Farm Life

Harvest Hand Signals: How to Decode


Learn how to read minds and become a master interpreter of hand signals for the sake of your farm and all who grace it with their presence during the blessed season of harvest. At Food & Swine we deem it incredibly vital to divulge all on farm communication because it is critical to the success of your business, volume of your harvest yield from year to year and safety of your employees (because who wants to be stranded in the middle of the field without toilet paper). Especially the ‘sigs for running out of toilet paper, that the candy is gone out of your tractor or that you simply don’t have a CLUE as to what is going on.

*Disclosure: The full intent of this harvest post is to be funny and silly. There are hand signals and unspoken communication that keep people alive on a daily basis on farms across the world. If you already have your dander up, chill out and grab a fun sized candy bar out of your lunchbox or your kids’ candy stashes and read along.

If you find that your corn-phone is not sufficiently charged, you’ll need to rely on hand signals to communicate, I’m sorry. Signals vary from farm to farm and there is no better way to learn them than to jump right in. I’ll give you a photo of the hand signal as it is used, a description of the communication it is intended to relay and multiple mistaken interpretations one may gather while trying to decipher the handmade code.
Thanks to Dad and Tanna for being models!


#1. SLOOOOOOOOOOOW DOWN.
Meaning: Slow your roll in that tractor you are driving. I cannot go this fast and unload. Chill out. You are going to break something. Slow down.
Misinterpretations: There is a short person in here that is ‘this tall’. The grass in the waterway is ‘this high’. I ordered a pony keg of root beer for the party and it is ‘this size’. You are ‘this much’ shorter than me. Close the lid to the pizza box slowly.

#2: A Little Bit More (To top off your grain cart/wagon/semi.)
Contributed by: Melissa Eshelman, Eshelman Farms, Central Iowa
Meaning: Typically given by the combine operator to grain cart operator (GCO) and GCO to semi, this valuable signal is given to declare to the other party that there shall be more grain placed in their respective holding device before they leave the field or go and dump onto the next hauling device.
Misinterpretations: Complaining about ‘the size’ of the candy bars in the lunchboxes. There is a mouse ‘this big’ in my pocket. Noting the size of the patience level of the people he/she is working with.
Most Common: “I like you THIS MUCH RIGHT NOW.”

#3. I don’t get it. I’m over it. Go away.
Meaning: Slumping back in your tractor seat and closing your eyes while placing your feet upon the steering wheel is a tractor-yoga pose that will instantly enhance your relationship with anyone who has the pleasure of working with you. This is a common “signal” to alert anyone who has repeatedly, excitedly offered you one hand signal after the next that YOU ARE OVER IT AND YOU NEED A SEC. With a success rate of 99% you are practically guaranteed they’ll leave you alone, but don’t be surprised when your permanent replacement shows up.
Misinterpretations: You’re asleep. Your lunch is gone and it’s only 9:45 so you are pouting. You happen to be stretching your hamstrings and your armpits. There is a mouse on the floor of the tractor and you are hyperventilating and doing your best to ignore the situation.

#4. Good Job.
Meaning: Perhaps the rarest of all harvest hand signals, but the most welcome. This means you actually read a mind properly, interpreted a signal correctly and are on the golden paved highway to becoming a better person, farmer and contributor to society. Typically this signal comes with a certificate that boasts a gold foil stamp and a $1000 bill* which bears the picture of the late Norman Borlaug to celebrate your contribution to agriculture as a whole. Or the fact that you simply didn’t screw up on this occasion.
Misinterpretation: I’m down to ‘3’ candy bars in my lunch box, is there another stash? There are “three” hundred bushels on the ground over the hill. It Is ‘3:00 pm, time to quit for the day. (HAHAHAHAHAHA. Never that one. Never.)

#5. Speed Up. (Hand motion in a horizontal circle with index finger pointing up.)
Meaning: Whatever you are doing at this moment, do it faster.
Misinterpretations: Confirming that it is indeed the INDEX FINGER is first on the list to determining the actual meaning of this signal.

#6. (Most Horrifying) TP Is GONE.
Meaning: If you don’t know what this means, you shouldn’t be operating heavy machinery. Stop what you are doing and go replenish the stock.
Misinterpretations: None. Second to life and death situations, running out of toilet paper is a dang emergency, treat it as one already!

#7: Shut It Down.
Meaning: We are done for the night. Fold up, tarp, whatever then shut your machine off.
Misinterpretations & Hidden Meanings: “You used my Chapstick, you lowlife scum and you’ll pay… OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!”, Cut me off, I’ve had too much fun (or candy.)

#8: Go away. (Palm waving back and forth away from person.)
Meaning: You’re full go unload. You’re too close to me. We’re done here. Move away over this little ditch and we’ll unload on the other side.
Misinterpretation: Talk to the hand. Did you put another Febreeze air freshener in here because I don’t like it?

#9: I’m hungry, where’s the food?
Submitted by: Erin Brenneman, Brenneman Pork, SE Iowa (Dylan shown as the model.)
Meaning: Literally, I’m hungry is dinner coming soon because I didn’t pack my own?
Misinterpretation: Have you ever tried an air-sandwich? They are really satisfying.

#10: You’re full, go unload already!
Meaning: You are topped off, get that grain cart back here EMPTY, ASAP. I’ll be full and waiting on you.
Misinterpretations: Good job. (The frown dictates otherwise.) It’s all good we are going home early tonight to be lazy and watch movies.

#12: Unload in the waterway up ahead.
Submitted by: Erin Brenneman, Brenneman Pork, SE Iowa
Meaning: Literally, unload in that waterway up ahead. I am pointing there, read my mind.
Misinterpretation: There is a tiny bearded troll running across the field… THERE!

I hope you all had a safe, bountiful harvest!

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3 Comments

  • Reply Katy Orr-Dove November 15, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Bahahahaha!!! “My favorite part, #4. Good Job.
    Meaning: Perhaps the rarest of all harvest hand signals.” Same here girl! Take it when you can get it!

  • Reply Phil McArdle November 16, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Great article. So true. So funny!!!

  • Reply Pam Hill November 16, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Awesome post!

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