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Harvesting the Crop

Threshing Machines

In the early 1900s, it was a very big job to harvest wheat from the fields. It was such a big job that farmers relied on threshing crews to help them get the crop off before winter came. Threshing crews were groups of traveling workers from Eastern Canada who moved from farm to farm to harvest the grain. There could be as many as 30 men in a threshing crew!

An irrigation system sprays water onto a green crop.


This farmer is using a threshing machine.

Threshing crews were groups of travelling workers who moved from farm to farm to harvest the grain.

Harvesting the crop took many steps. First, the wheat would go through a binder that would cut the wheat and tie it together in bundles with string. These bundles were stalked up in stooks to dry. Then once the stooks were dry, they were run through a threshing machine that removed the seeds from the rest of the wheat plant.

A tractor pulls a binder in a wheat field. There are multiple bundles of wheat shown.


This farmer is using a binder to cut the wheat and tie it together in bundles.

A farmer is standing next to a stook of wheat in a wheat field.

Photo Credit: Western Development Museum

This farmer is standing next to a stook of wheat.


The combine harvester got rid of the need for a binder and a thresher. This meant there was no longer a need for a threshing crew which ended the harvest excursions from Eastern Canada. The farmer was able to harvest their crop with much fewer people, though it still took long days and tough work. Tractors and combines had no roof or windows back then, so harvesting was very dusty work.

Two farmers are riding on a 1950s combine to harvest their crop.

These farmers are using a combine to harvest their crop in the 1950s.

Watch this silent film from 1938 show the process of how farmers used horses to pull their combine.

Today’s Harvest

Today’s technology has advanced a lot, making it much easier for a farmer to farm and harvest large amounts of land. Combines today are comfortable and use technologies like GPS. GPS are global positioning systems that allow the farmer to track how much grain each part of the field is yielding. Combines today can go faster and do a better job than old threshing machines. From the combine, the grain is unloaded directly into a grain truck or a grain cart that is pulled by a tractor. The tractor and grain cart then unload into a semi-truck. From the field, the grain goes to farmers’ bins to be sold later.

A yellow combine harvests grain in a farm field with blue skies above.

Today’s combines are much more advanced and have lots of features that make harvesting easier for farmers than it was a century ago.

Watch this animated video, showing what the inside of a combine looks like while harvesting.

Harvest has changed a lot over the years, but a few things are the same. Harvest is ‘go time’ for farmers! There are only a few weeks of sunny weather to get the grain off the field before it snows! A century ago, threshing crews spent weeks harvesting. Today, many farms have seasonal help or family members come home from the city to harvest. People are needed to swath, combine, drive the grain cart, haul grain, and make meals!

Finishing harvest is a time to celebrate the hard work and grain that will help feed the world!

An illustrated combine harvests a wheat field while dumping grain into a grain cart that is being pulled by a tractor. There is a sunny sky above.

Harvest takes a lot of hard work and long hours to get finished before winter comes.

An illustrated group of people are helping harvest the crop by using pitchforks and a cradle scythe.

Harvest in the early 1900s required lots of people to do all of the manual labour.

An illustrated farm shows a harvest scene where a combine is harvesting canola in the field and a family and a few others are standing in the foreground. There is a farm yard with a shop and a house in the background.

Harvest now still requires a lot of people to run all of the equipment and make meals.