'Old-fashioned' farming on display in Pa.

June 26, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Watching as Depression-era farm equipment drawn by a team of two horses and two mules was used to cut a field of wheat Saturday, Albert Williams figured his modern equipment saved him two hours in the morning and many more in the evening.

But while it illustrated how much more work it used to be to cut grain, the public demonstration at Renfrew Museum and Park also made Williams nostalgic.

"They quit this kind of stuff just about the time I was getting started," said Williams, 58, who farms a beef cattle and grain operation in Downsville.

His older brother farmed with horses, he said.

"I would have liked to have (had) a little part of it," said Williams, who heard about the grain cutting demonstration and farm equipment exhibit from a friend.


He and his wife, Patricia, 55, decided to drive up from Maryland and check it out, he said.

A friend, Roger Rhoades, of Hagerstown, came along but not because of a connection to farming.

"I like to watch old-fashioned ways," said Rhoades, 50.

This was the second time Renfrew held the grain cutting program, said Jean Frantz, 43, whose husband, John, was one of several men operating the borrowed 1934 John Deere binder.

John Frantz, 47, is supervisor of buildings and grounds at Renfrew, which was farmed from the mid-to-late 1700s until the 1960s, Jean Frantz said.

Renfrew's Grain Cutting and Threshing Days event was born in 1997 as a Waynesboro bicentennial event, she said.

The event was brought back and expanded this year as part of a yearlong look at the area's past before everyone begins looking ahead in the new millennium, she said.

The field cutting started at 9 a.m. but was suspended from about 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch and a change of the two horses, Frantz said.

After the break, the same two mules - heartier than horses - returned to the field near the Fahnestock barn with two new equine partners, she said.

Snapping photos of the action, Waynesboro resident Susan Murphy was impressed at how the old machinery neatly tied the bundles before leaving them in piles on the field.

"It's amazing," said Murphy, 30, who said an interest in Renfrew and local agriculture drew her to the grain cutting and threshing programs.

Cutting on the left side and gathering and tying the bundles on the right, the equipment used Saturday was quite a labor-saver compared to the machinery used a century before, Frantz said.

The McCormick Reaper, which appeared in 1831, required workers to walk behind, rake the grain and then tie it in bundles, she said.

A reproduction of that reaper made in 1931 was among the old-time farm equipment loaned by Hagerstown collector Frank Artz for the event, Frantz said.

Threshing of the grain cut on Saturday will be done on July 3 and 4 with steam engines and threshers made by Waynesboro companies Frick and Geiser, she said.

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