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Farming, back in the day

By Staff | Aug 1, 2014

THIS CIRCA-1913 Minneapolis threshing machine is thought to be one of just 10 operable with the twin feeding chutes. Owner Nick Foster, of Jefferson, said such big threshers peaked around 1913 to 1915. “After that, they started scaling them back,” Foster said.



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.

THE THREE YOUTHS pitching oats into the threshing machine are, from left, Brianna Rohde, 14, of Boone; Trevor Rath, 17, of Grimes; and Keith Bohan, 17, of Grimes. Bohan said this is his third year helping at the bee.

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.

THREE EIGHT-BOTTOM breaker plows wait to be put into use at the Jefferson Threshing Bee. The three would be pulled by steam traction engines, like the Case engine in the background. Owner Nick Foster, of Jefferson, said these are the types of plows that first broke the prairie sod.

“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.

STEVE CHAPMAN, pointing, and Tim Chapman, both of Bagley, watch oat threshing Saturday at the Foster Farm in rural Jefferson during the annual Threshing Bee.

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.

JERRY CAHILL, of Jefferson, operates the chute of a corn wagon, dumping ears of corn to be conveyed into a corn sheller. He is assisted by Dennis Hauran, of Milo.

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

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