Letters: Crimson Clover Harvester

Two readers are able to identify a pictured implement as a clover harvester (previously misidentified as a corn harvester) and recall a time decades ago when crimson clover was a profitable crop.

crimson clover harvester

Not a corn harvester but a clover harvester, from an era when the seeds of crimson clover were a cash crop.

Farm Collector Magazine Staff

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Howard Olson (Farm Collector, January 2005) may have a rarer implement than he realizes. I do not believe it is a corn binder, but a crimson clover harvester. In the 1930s, times were hard and money was scarce on middle Tennessee farms, and crimson clover became a great cash crop. The seed brought a good price per bushel. Crimson clover was grown more around Winchester, Tenn., in Franklin County, but in our section of Bedford County, the farmers began to sow and sell the seed. It was sowed in August and could be pastured by sheep and cows in the winter if care was taken. My father would turn his cows on the clover for an hour and then get them out to prevent bloat. It increased their milk production.

Our neighbor had a 20-acre field of crimson clover ready to harvest. He tried to cut it with a mower and was losing seed. The next day he came in with three harvesters that looked just like that pictured in the January 2005 Farm Collector. I don't know whether he bought, borrowed or leased them. I suspect he got them at Winchester where a lot of crimson clover was grown, and may have returned them after they were used in our neighborhood.

The implement had a cutter bar (sickle) with an apron behind it on which the cut clover fell. There were three arms which came around, over, and down and swept the cut clover off into small piles. Canvas was put in the bottom of the wagons used to haul the clover to the thresher to catch the seed that scattered out. The clover was threshed with a wheat thresher and usually the stack was run through the second time in order to get all the seed. By this means, good money was realized from a small field.

The arms that swept the clover off the apron came up and over the drive wheel. I moved away after that year, and when I came back to Tennessee, crimson clover wasn't grown as before. It is not grown in Franklin County now, but for a time it was a great cash crop. That has been nearly 70 years ago.

Dick Poplin
Shelbyville, TN

An implement in the January 2005 issue is identified as corn binder, but I don't believe that's what it is and I don't think it's built heavy or large enough to cut corn. I think it's a clover harvester (for seed). My dad had a tin pan that bolted to the cutter bar of the mower. Mother drove the team and dad walked behind with a large wooden rake, and as clover seed hay built up, he raked it off in a bunch behind the mower.

Also, in the same issue is a brush hook or cutter. A single bit axe handle went into the loops or eyes.

Harold Randall
Springport, MI