Thursday, October 13, 2022

Inventions that changed the landscape of farming


Yesterday was National Farmer's Day. 

A day set aside to honor, respect, and thank our farmers for the work they do that keeps us fed and supplies our country with much-needed materials. 

I grew up on a farm, raised by parents who grew up on farms. In fact, we've had farmers in our family as farm back in our family tree as anyone has traced. 

I know first-hand how hard, how back-breaking the work can sometimes be. Farmers rarely receive appreciation or recognition for their efforts. 

Even though National Farmer's Day was yesterday, I'm still honoring it today and saying a huge "THANK YOU" to all the farmers out there.

I was thinking about how farming has changed over the years. It's a conversation I often have with my dad who is in his 90s. 

There are eight inventions that made a huge impact on farming. 

1Thresher: Before the invention of the thresher, the method for removing kernels from straw involved spreading grain out on a threshing floor and beating it by hand, or sometimes animals trampled it. The straw was raked away and the kernels tossed into the air in hopes the wind would blow away the chaff. The first threshing machine was invented in 1786 in Scotland by Andrew Meikle. Then, in 1830 American brothers invented a thresher as well as adapting a horse tread power to run it. Hiram created a fanning mill and added to the threshing drum to separate and clean the grain at the same time. 

2. Reaper/Binder: For centuries, small grains had been harvested by hand, cut with sickles or scythes, hand-raked, and tied into sheaves. Grain harvesting machines first appeared in Great Britain around 1800, and in the U.S. not long after, but most machines failed. Obed Hussey and Cyrus McCormick developed successful reapers during the 1830s. McCormick’s machine became the more popular of the two and he is credited with inventing the reaper. The reaper made it possible to harvest fields faster and for farmers to grow more crops.

3. Steam Engine
: American farmers relied primarily on strong backs and arms to do the work through the 18th century. New farm machines required more power, so oxen, horses, and mules were pressed into service. Stationary steam engines were used to run cotton gins and mills. The improvements to threshing machines led to the development of portable steam power, making its first appearance in 1849. Originally, horses were used to haul steam engines from job to job. During the 1870s, several inventors developed drive systems and self-propelled steam traction engines became a common power for many threshing rigs and plows, particularly in wheat-producing areas.

4. Combines: This piece of must-have equipment on any sizeable farm combines three harvesting operations. It reaps, threshes, and winnows. The earliest combines were developed in the 1830s. After the Civil War, big horse-drawn, ground-driven combines were developed in the wheat-growing regions of the Northwest. The machines were pulled by large teams of horses or mules. The first self-propelled combine wasn't built until 1886.

5. Automobiles: Machinery, animals, and crops all needed to be moved around a farm or to market. Two-wheeled carts sufficed in the early days of arming. Then came 4-wheeled wagons. The first automobile in America was designed in 1893.  Henry Ford invented the famous Model T in 1908. These early inventions paved the way for the first steam and gas-powered farm wagons. These wagons helped farmers move around the farm, as well as transport livestock and equipment. Farm wagons eventually evolved into the modern day pick-up truck,

6. Tractors: Every farm needs a tractor or two (or more!). Tractors help farmers increase productivity, which led the way to larger farms. Tractors were originally powered with steam engines. They were heavy, awkward machines. Combustion engines eventually replaced steam engines, allowing engineers to decrease the size of the tractor. John Froehlich is generally given credit for inventing the first successful tractor in 1892. The first commercially successful tractor was built in Charles City, Iowa, by Charles Hart and Charles Parr.  By the 1920s, tractors were lighter, more reliable, and more affordable. As more tractors were used, fewer horses and mules were necessary, allowing farmer's to sell more feed instead of giving it to their livestock. 

7. Rubber Tires: Wheels on early machines were steel-lugged. They limited speed, vibrated, shook bolts and farmers alike, and easily became stuck in soft ground. Solid rubber tires entered the scene in the 1920s. Florida citrus growers experimented with large truck tires on tractors in 1928. Harvey Firestone fitted large, low-pressure tires to an Allis-Chalmers U tractor in 1932. The tires were a success and Allis-Chalmers began to offer air tires on their tractors - an industry first. The advantages included fuel economy, performance, not to mention comfort and wear and tear on the ground. 

8. Hydraulics: When pressurized fluid powers an engine, it’s called hydraulics. This technology is used in a variety of agricultural equipment including tractors, self-propelled sprayers, self-propelled harvesters, and truck loaders. Reportedly, hydraulics are believed to be a key factor in how the agriculture industry has transformed over the years. Hydraulics have vastly reduced the amount of manual power needed and increases overall efficiency and productivity. Another benefit of hydraulics -  it reduces the risk of injury.

Read about threshers, repeaters, combines, and early tractors in my 
Pendleton Petticoats sweet romance series!

After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with hope, humor, and hunky heroes.

When this award-winning author isn’t writing or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at: ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Newsletter

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