With corn in the fields, pumpkins in the patch and apples on the trees, it’s harvest time here in Northwest Ohio. For some people, fall harvest means digging potatoes from the garden or picking apples from the orchard. For others it may mean spending hours in a combine to harvest hundreds of acres of corn or soybeans. While methods have changed through the years, fall harvest continues to be a time-honored tradition in this region.
In the mid 1800s, corn, wheat, oats, potatoes and molasses were grown in this area. Because of the difficulty in getting the crop to market, most of the crops were used on the farm. Harvesting was done almost entirely by hand with corn being husked off the stalk or shocked in the field until needed. Grain was cut with a grain cradle and tied into bundles and shocked by hand. Harvesting two or three acres in a day was a big accomplishment.
By the 1880s several inventions made harvesting much easier. Threshing machines replaced flails allowing an entire crop to be done in a day or two instead of weeks. Reapers & binders also made harvesting quicker, and the coming of the railroad in the late 1850s meant that surplus could be shipped out to other markets, Farms got bigger as less time was needed to work each acre. By 1870 the time of our Stuckey Farm, farmers like Peter Stuckey had extra time to start up side businesses like his wagon shop.
By 1928, many of the same crops were still being grown, but in much greater numbers. The threshing machines were now powered by gas tractors instead of steam engines making the process much safer. While wheat and oats enjoyed new innovations, corn was still being hand harvested.
It was not until the late 1940s that better machines and new drying bins made the combine widely popular and more affordable in this part of Ohio. Today oats are not typically grown in this area and soybeans have taken many of the acres that were previously planted in oats. Wheat and corn continue to be major crops in Ohio. With average-sized farm equipment of today, farmers can typically shell 50 acres of corn, 90 acres of soybeans or 50 acres of wheat per day. A big change from the one or two acres of the 1830s.
Traditions like a threshers dinner or special church service like the Harvest Home Service were common ways to celebrate the bounty of the harvest. Throughout the fall, harvest will be a big part of the story we tell at Historic Sauder Village. There will be vegetables to harvest from our garden, apples to pick and use for making tasty apple butter, historic farming demonstrations and more!
While the methods of harvest have changed through the years, the importance of this season has remained steadfast. Fall harvest is a time of thanksgiving and celebration. We hope you’ll take time this fall to celebrate the season and enjoy the bounty of the harvest!