Tag Archives: wheat

October on the Farm

Another video from the Peterson Farm Brothers offering insight into what goes into raising our food.

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June on the Farm

Another month on a Kansas farm, thanks to the Peterson Farm Brothers.

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Not Just Corn

Rivers are easily identified in dryer areas by trees and scrub that grow along their banks, especially here on the Great Plains. The Great Plains are pretty much defined by not having trees, because the almost constant wind and regular brush fires kept trees from growing even before this land was converted to farms. But the trees would grow near rivers, where adequate water made holding on easier.


While corn had become the favorite grain of the early colonists, newcomers spreading across the prairie in the mid 1800s wanted wheat. Wheat was what rich people ate. Wheat needed good soil to grow well. In Europe, the poor lived on marginal lands, where rye, oats, and millet would survive, but not wheat. So wheat became part of the mix on the Great Plains. It never came close to competing with corn, as far as acreage and importance, but still it has a significant presence. The gold of the ripening wheat is beautiful, especially in the wind, which makes it ripple like the sea.


Other crops in the area include milo (grain sorghum), hay, and alfalfa. But still, corn is king. (And if you’d like to know more about sorghum, I did a post on it on my World’s Fare site: https://worldsfare.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/sorghum/.)


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Today’s Combine

After the tractor, the next big advance was the self-propelled combine—a harvesting machine that you drove, rather than dragging it behind a tractor. The modern combine looks more like a space station than a piece of farm equipment. The combine on display at the Pavilion is fitted with a wheat head—a front end that harvests wheat. In 1954, John Deere introduced the first corn head—though combines then looked more like golf carts, and the corn head only harvested two rows at a time. Things have definitely changed since 1954.


And just so you know what a corn head looks like, here’s a photo I took from the cabin of an International Harvester combine during harvest time in Ohio. You’ll note that it’s quite a bit different from the wheat head, and is clearly designed for row crops.  (I think this photo also shows why being in the middle of a cornfield is sometimes compared to being at sea.)


Traveling around the Midwest, one learns that color matters. There are a number of manufacturers of harvesting equipment, but the two “species” one encounters most commonly in the Heartland are made by John Deere or Case/International Harvester. Green with yellow means John Deere farm equipment. (There are other green combines in the world, but one quickly learns the precise shade of green that means John Deere for farmers.) Red usually means International Harvester (and the combine in the second photo is IH red). It can also mean Massey Ferguson, but I never saw one of their combines on a corn farm. People are as divided and as loyal as any car owner you’ve ever met. Yellow is pretty much reserved for earth-moving equipment, even when it’s made by John Deere. (Hence, a book on the history of the earth-moving equipment industry is titled Yellow Steel.)

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