Threshing Bees and Tractor Shows

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Hank Will

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Travel the rural byways these days and you won’t often see farmers plowing their fields. The once conventional practice of turning of the soil has fallen from grace because it contributed to plenty of soil erosion over the years. But plowing is still practiced by some farmers and even more old iron enthusiasts. You don’t have to look very far to find a vintage tractor plowday in a field near you but there are many more opportunities to tap into the power of old farm machinery this year.

Back when relatively few farmers owned threshing machines, several families would get together and split the grain-cleaner’s cost. When it was time to thresh the wheat or oats, those same families would come together to form crews of men and boys to bring in the shocks and thresh the grain and crews of women and girls to keep the threshing crew fueled and hydrated. These so-called threshing bees were once commonplace. Today, as reenactments, they exist pretty much in name only. But I can’t think of a better way to while away a summer or fall day than watching a group of men, women, girls and boys tossing shocks into an old threshing machine, that is, unless, I am participating in the action.

Plowdays and threshing bees are only the tip of the old iron iceberg though. Take a look at the Farm Collector Show Directory, and you will find hundreds of shows and other events devoted to the preservation, display and demonstration of all manner of antique agricultural equipment. These happenings occur in virtually every state and Canadian province. Most occur between the months of April and October, but one of the largest events occurs in Florida in the dead of winter.

If you are at all interested in agricultural practices of old, or just need to take the kids, old and young alike, on an outing, open the Farm Collector Show Book some random page and head out on the adventure of a lifetime.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .