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Reconnecting with farming’s history

By Staff | Sep 22, 2014

A group of children pick corn and toss it into the wagon where Paul DeShaw is standing during the 10th annual Harvest Party at DeShaw’s farm near Carroll. The party is a way to celebrate farming heritage by reviving the old techiniques where horses and people supplied the power.

CARROLL – Paul DeShaw is a man who believes in sharing.

On the second Saturday of each September, he opens his home near Carroll to family, friends and neighbors for his annual Harvest Party, a day when the methods of farming from the early 1900s are revived with horse power and human labor.

“We try to recreate the rich culture of the past, the heritage of farming and the land,” DeShaw said. “We want to share with everyone the pride and satisfaction found in meaningful work.”

The event began 10 years ago, he said, when someone at a family reunion bet him he couldn’t ride the 100 miles a day he used to ride as a young man checking fences and fields on horseback.

He aid that he knew he could, so he set about to recreate the ride.

Kyler Sander, left, and Levi Riesberg, both of Carroll, shell corn using hand cranks during the 10th annual Harvest Party on Paul DeShaw’s farm near Carroll Saturday. The harvest party enabled people of all ages to revisit the farming methods used in the early 1900s when horses and people provided all the power.

“Then someone said I was selfish and should share my things,” De Shaw said, as he gestured to his collection of antique agriculture equipment. “So I said, ‘Why not make it into a party?'”

During 2014’s party, on Sept. 13, more than 100 people gathered on his farm to participate in old-time harvest chores.

They rode the horse-drawn wagon to the field and cut sorghum and picked corn by hand.

They threshed oats, peeled apples for apple butter and boiled sorghum juice into syrup.

Participants also watched as the corn they had picked was shelled, ground and used to bake corn muffins.

Dick Schrad, of Knoxville, skims the warming sorghum juice to remove any bits of stocks or seeds during the 10th annual Harvest Party at Paul Deshaw’s farm near Carroll Saturday morning. Sorghum was used in sweets and baked goods long before sugar became popular. It was also used during WWII when sugar was rationed.

Throughout it all, they talked and laughed.

Chris Gehling, 15, of Arcadia, laughed with his friend Ryan Teauto as they tossed ears of corn they picked and tried to hit the high backboard of the horse-drawn wagon.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 5,”Gehling said, “and I really like it.”

The Harvest Party has become a tradition for many in the area, said Jacie Sander, of rural Carroll.

Generations of families will travel “home” from throughout the Midwest to spend the day on the farm, which is why so many neighbors and community members volunteer to help DeShaw keep the event going.

Preparations begin two weeks before the party to get the farm and fields ready for the visitors.

“It’s kind of a neighborhood thing,” Sander said. “We all stop by and help after work, just doing little odds and ends to help him pull it all together.”

And the reason it’s pulled together each year, DeShaw said, is to revive a history central to the region’s identity and share it with a new generation.

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