Grain harvest in Amish Country

If you will be visiting Holmes, Wayne or Tuscarawas counties in the near future, be sure to bring your camera. You’ll find that the wheat fields are being harvested and the fields are filled with “shocks.”

Because the Amish don’t use grain combines (the “English” way of harvesting), they cut wheat with a machine called a binder. It makes little bundles of the stalks that are bound together with binder twine. The bundles are then picked up and stacked expertly in “shocks” so that the wheat kernels will dry. If left on the ground, the bundles will pick up moisture and will not dry properly.

It takes nine bundles to make one shock. Eight bundles are stacked against each other with one bundle placed on the top. It’s a family affair to shock grain and often you’ll see the entire family helping, including children and grandparents.

To harvest the wheat, the shocks will be picked up by hand and stacked on a flatbed wagon to be hauled to the thrashing machine. The bundles are fed into the machine which separates the wheat kernels from the straw and chaff. One end of the machine ejects the grain while the other end blows out the straw and chaff. The straw can be baled for animal bedding and the wheat can be sold at the local farmer’s mill or ground into grain.

Most often, the farmer will gather together his neighbors and friends to help with the labor of thrashing. This is called a “frolic” and a large meal is prepared to feed all the hungry helpers. Served on platters and passed around the tables, this type of meal is one of the inspirations for our Der Dutchman and Dutch Valley Restaurant family-style meals.

The rule of thumb for wheat harvest, at least in north central Ohio, is the 4th of July. If you can’t visit at that time, you might find that in a couple weeks they will be harvesting oats in a similar way. Other grain crops grown in the area include speltz and rye.

4 thoughts on “Grain harvest in Amish Country

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  2. Pingback: Farm Life Then and Now | Karen Glenn Farr

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