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Wheat harvest at Howell Living History Farm (USA)

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

Kyle Runkle BS Agricultural Systems Management, PSU, coaching future engineer Elijah on setup and lubrication of the binder.

The harvest of the 2022 wheat crop at Howell Living History Farm began on June 25th as part of a Saturday event. Normally, three horses are used to pull a McCormick Reaper-Binder, which not only cuts the wheat and catches it on a tarp, but also bundles and binds it into a sheaf that is deposited onto the ground on the other side of the machine. However, due to new staff and inexperience driving a 3-horse hitch and the reaper-binder, this year the reaper-binder was pulled by a 1940 Farmall H so that binder operators could be safely trained.

Kyle Runkle driving the Farmall H pulling the Reaper Binder.

Here is a video of the 2020 3-horse hitch:

Visitors were then employed to help stack the sheaves into a shock, to allow the final drying of the grain in the field. The arrangement of eight sheaves standing in a circle with two draped across the top allows for airflow, while also protecting the majority of the grain from any incidental rain. The sheaves were collected about two weeks later and set aside for program use.

The entirety of the wheat crop was not harvested with the reaper binder, and it wasn't until early July that the remainder of the crop was harvested with a 1960 John Deere Model 42 combine. This final harvest occurred later than intended, as there were delays due to weather and equipment malfunctions.

Here a video of the 1960 John Deere combine in use:

One of the benefits of the combine is that it both harvests and threshes the wheat at the same time, while depositing the straw into windrows for later baling. In order to demonstrate the historic process of threshing wheat, the farmers at Howell Farm set up their Peerless Thresher, manufactured by Trenton Agricultural Works, Trenton NJ in the late 19th century, as a demonstration at the Mercer County 4-H Fair on July 30th. Hand threshing with a flail was also demonstrated. Approximately 60 sheaves were used for this demonstration, and the grain was set aside for winnowing demonstrations as part of the fall Wheat Planting school program, which utilized the rest of the sheaves.

Threshing with the historic 19th century thresher

An example of the flail threshing can be seen here:

While the grain threshed and winnowed as part of the school programs is not retained, the majority of the crop yielded approximately 5,430 pounds of wheat.


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