From their air-conditioned glass offices overlooking the Palouse in Southeastern Washington, brothers and third-generation wheat farmers Mark and Gary Bailey spend more than 12 hours a day bringing in the crop.

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From their air-conditioned glass offices overlooking the Palouse in Southeastern Washington, brothers and third-generation wheat farmers Mark and Gary Bailey spend more than 12 hours a day bringing in the crop.

Mark’s climate-controlled cab is atop a massive combine. Gary’s is on an all-wheel-drive tractor pulling a grain cart — massive enough to hold 1,000 bushels of soft white wheat.

Whitman County has “the most productive dryland wheat acreage in the U.S.,” says Mark.

The combine has a 40-foot header, and its computer continually monitors the business at hand. A combine is a harvester and a thresher. The grain is cut, then separated from the chaff and weeds.

There’s also a rock trap. Mark says, “You don’t want to harvest a rock; then there’s substantial damage.”

The Bailey family has passed down their farm from one generation to the next. They grow soft white wonder wheat that will be exported to Asia and typically made into noodles. (Alan Berner & Katie G. Cotterill / The Seattle Times)

On the right side of the cab is a vertical computer screen displaying speed, how many bushels are being gathered, the moisture content and acres traversed. If Mark doesn’t want to use the power steering, the machine has GPS allowing for autopilot control.

It’s as comfortable as an automobile with a more expansive view to take in at 2 mph.

Outside, the broad swath produces plenty of dust. Those brown clouds enveloping farmers of old who hitched up oxen, mules or draft horses are history.

Today, Mark and Gary have a clear FM signal from Spokane, 50 miles north, and tune in country music or sports talk radio discussing teams at WSU, Gonzaga or University of Idaho, from which both are alums.

But it takes mechanical know-how to fix problems in the field

When one of the 124 razor-edged V-shaped cutters breaks, Mark immediately notices the few stalks left standing.

He has a spare blade and within a few minutes bolts it in place while Gary helps turn belts by hand for proper positioning.

They get rolling again.

Mark says, “It’s a great way of life — the work ethic, and it teaches your kids how to work.”

He says, “We are responsible stewards of the land.”

For Gary, “The best part is being my own boss.

“And it’s peaceful out here, really just peaceful. No people bugging you.”

It takes long hours to harvest the wheat from 2,800 acres.

Only 2 percent of Americans are farmers these days. Both brothers hope the family’s fourth generation will continue the work, “if they’re interested and passionate.”