Seeing a bountiful, colorful harvest then and now

By Frank Grispino

The rolling hills of Nodaway County are a pleasant sight to behold during spring and early summer. This year was especially unique because of the abundance of rain that all the grass, plants and trees had.  Late fall and winter colors turn brown and tan with all the leaves gone and other plants dead in preparation for the windy, cold winter. It can be a depressing view after the splendor of spring and summer colors, but harvest time brings a new and impressive view. The brown and tans of fall bring the harvest season to our area with crops to be cut and picked by our local farmers.

Not long ago on a trip to St. Joseph I began looking at all the activity traveling on the highway and connected to a harvest: combines in fields harvesting corn and beans, semi-trucks filled with grain, tractors pulling trailers with tons of harvested crops. The colors of the machinery matched well with the brown and tan colors. The exacting rows of cut corn and bean fields provided geometric patterns in the fields. All of this reminded me of my youth when I was hired to help harvest the crops in Kansas. Kansas, as you know, is mostly a farm state and even though I was not from a farm family, many of my friends and schoolmates were from Kansas farms. Harvesting was different during my youth, although the end result was the same – harvest the corn and beans and sell them at market. Storage of crops in bins was rare and the idea at the time of metal bins to store and sell later was rare.

Although I did work with a company just starting to build metal bins on farms, there were few being used at that time. Also, my employment with farm harvest amounted to harvesting wheat with small combines pulled by a tractor and even horse-drawn wagons for collection of ears of corn. There were many hours spent walking next to wagons that were pulled by horses and in putting the shucked corn into the wagons. My memory is of using a glove with a metal hook that was sewed into the hand of the glove, then using one hand to hold the ear of corn and tearing away the cover to expose the ear. This then was thrown into the wagon one ear at a time until the wagon was filled.

When I helped with wheat harvest, I stood on an open platform of a Gleaner-Baldwin harvest combine that was pulled by a small tractor. My job was to move the header up and down to avoid bumps and hazards while cutting. Much has changed to planting, growing, and harvesting over the years. Still, the purpose and goals of harvesting are the same – getting the crop to market.

Technology has helped which has provided huge improvements, including higher yield to enjoy. Harvesting season is not as physically demanding as it used to be, but has not lost its importance. The colors of the surrounding nature have stayed the same.

The next time you drive past a field being harvested, look at the colors that are in view and the activity. But remember the process, although in different ways, has been going on for many, many generations. This can be a pleasant sight and important to all of us.

In his poem, “Harvest Celebration,” poet Diego Flammini has captured the essence of the events:

Completion of the harvest, is a time to celebrate,

Leaves on trees are yellowing, around the whole estate,

Barns and bins are full to bursting, for winter now is here,

In olden days it was the same, to grow still takes a year.

A lot more handwork then, more men worked upon the land,

Ploughed with horses an acre a day, seed was sewn by hand,

Good rotation of all the crops, kept most weeds at bay,

At harvest stood sheaves up in stocks, for two church bells they must stay.

Into bays of ricks were built, threshed out as needed through the year,

Wheat went to the mill to be ground, flour for bread we do revere,

Oats to feed the cattle and horses, and some for porridge bound,

To feed the men and families who, work on the land all year round.

Mechanized now and fewer men, but crops still grow the same,

Sunshine and warmth in the spring, showers to grow good crops the aim,

In nature nothing really changes, seasons come and go,

To keep us on the land we all love, it’s food for everyone we grow.

Nodaway County has bountiful harvests and the amount of corn that can be seen in enormous piles at COOP and MFA, as well as in Hopkins, are a witness to how successful it is. We are indeed fortunate that there are more than adequate amounts to use and to eat and a large part of this blessing is because of farms, farmers and their dedication to their work.