Farming the way it used to be

JEFFERSON – The Foster family of rural Jefferson educated and entertained area Iowans Saturday and Sunday on farming the way it used to be done.

This is the 15th year the Fosters have held the threshing bee on their Century Farm.

“We want to show people how things have been done,” said Nick Foster, of what he hoped visitors would take with them at the end of the day. “Everything out here is free. That included the meals and a band concert Saturday night.

In preparing for the bee, volunteers assist the Fosters in shocking five acres of oats.

On Saturday, three youths were doing the itchy work of pitching oats into an Avery threshing machine.

For Brianna Rohde, 14, of Boone, and Trevor Rath, 17, of Grimes, it was their first time to help at the event.

For Keith Bohan, 17, of Grimes, it was his third year. Bohan said he first learned of the Jefferson event while participating in similar activities at Living History Farms in Urbandale.

“I just like being around old engines,” Bohan said.

He said he bought an old tractor to restore.

“I’d have brought it today,” he said, “but it’s not ready.”

An hour later, Nick Foster fired up a 1913 Avery steam traction engine.

Foster said it once opened virgin prairie sod 50 miles north of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The engine, Foster said, was unique having a 20-horsepower Alberta Special boiler, one of only two known to still be working.

The steam engine’s belt was wound around its flywheel and the other end around a wheel on a 1913 Minneapolis threshing machine.

That was prior to the merging of three companies in 1929 – Minneapolis Steel & Machinery, Minneapolis Threshing Machine and Moline Plow – to become Minneapolis-Moline.

It too was unique in that it can be fed from both sides of the thresher as well as from the rear.

Foster said the heyday of big threshing machines was between 1913 to 1915.

“After that,” he said, “they started pulling back” building smaller threshing machines.