The Iowa Agriculturist
Harvesting: Small Grain
Harvesting was a very important time for the American farmer. It was
the time when the rewards of growing could be clearly seen. Harvest had
its own beautiful color and smells.
small grain crops, whether wheat, or some other plant, required much work
to harvest. Long ago, before machines helped the farmer, the crop had
to be worked by hand. First it had to be cut and then bunched carefully.
It would then be tied in a bundle. The bundles were "shocked"
or set up in groups of bundles for drying. Once the bundles dried, they
were hauled to a specific location to be beaten or tramped on a floor.
This grueling and slow work loosened the grains on the stalk. Finally,
the chaff had to be separated from the kernels, usually by throwing the
whole mixture into the air. This allowed the wind to blow the chaff away.
The introduction of inventions to many of the harvesting
stages helped farmers a great deal. Early horse drawn cutters allowed
the farmer to sit down while cutting grain.
During the 1880's mechanical harvesters were being invented.
In addition to cutting the crop by machine, a binding attachment packed
and wrapped the bundle with twine.
All of the early inventions - reapers, headers, harvesters,
and binders - helped farmers to reduce the workload.
From: Explorations in Iowa History Project, Price Laboratory
School, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA
Photos used by permission from the State Historical Society