The Farm And Ranch Museum, Gering, Neb.,
was transformed into a film production lot in July 2011, as a film crew from
Inspirit Creative arrived to shoot footage for the upcoming film documentary, Harvesting
the High Plains .
Directed by cinematographer
Jay Kriss and produced and scripted by him and Sydney Duvall, the documentary
tells the story of Kansans Ray Garvey and John Kriss, who endured the Dust Bowl
days to create one of the largest wheat farming operations on the High Plains.
“It was essential for us to
show vintage farm equipment in the film,” says Jay, whose grandfather, John
Kriss, served as a partner/manager of G-K Farms. “We were fortunate to obtain
rights to use archival 16 mm film shot by Works Progress Administration (WPA)
cinematographers in the 1930s. But we also wanted to film vintage tractors,
combines and equipment at work in the field. So I posted inquiries on tractor
collector websites, looking for specific years and models of equipment we could
use in the film.”
location in Nebraska
“Jay’s inquiries led him to
our museum website,” explains Jack Preston, co-director of the Farm And Ranch
Museum. “By sheer coincidence, we were both in Washington, D.C.,
at the same time, so we had an opportunity to sit down and talk about the film.
He was looking for vintage equipment that would have been used for ground
preparation, planting, tillage and wheat harvesting in the 1930s and ’40s. It
turned out that we had much of what Jay wanted, so he made arrangements to
visit our museum.”
In July 2011, filming began
at the museum’s farm in western Nebraska.
About 75 acres of the 100-acre farm is planted to crops each year, and a
portion of that had been planted to wheat just ready for harvest. The biggest
filming challenge the filmmakers faced was the scenic Scotts Bluff
National Monument, which
towers 830 feet above the valley floor a scant half-mile from the museum’s
grounds. Since the film is intended to depict the flat plains of Kansas, the
cinematographers had to focus their cameras tightly on the equipment.
for period pieces
The Farm And Ranch Museum
has more than 50 vintage tractors in its collection, most of them in running
condition and many in their original paint. That was just fine with Jay, who says
Ray Garvey and John Kriss didn’t believe in spending money on new equipment. “I
wanted the equipment to look like it had been working for a few years,” he
That it did. Tractors
featured in the film include the museum’s 1931 Case Model L on steel lugs, a
1930 McCormick-Deering 22-36 on rubber tires and a 1926 Caterpillar 60 used in
highway construction before being acquired by a wheat farmer in nearby Banner County.
The filmmakers also used a 1930s-era International WD-9 on loan from local
collector Gary Senkel.
Charlie Fenster, another
museum co-director, says vintage equipment portrayed in the film includes a
Krause one-way plow, a John Deere 10-bottom gang plow, a 3-row Oliver lister
and a 1930s-era spring-tooth harrow, as well as a Cheney rod weeder and a vintage
Sishc duckfoot cultivator manufactured in Torrington,
Wyo. The museum also supplied a
McCormick-Deering 12-hole, 10-foot grain drill and a Peacock grain drill
developed in the 1920s by Charles Peacock, Arriba, Colo. To add realism to the harvesting footage,
the museum borrowed a 1939 GMC AC303 1-1/2-ton farm truck equipped with a
beet/grain box owned by Tom Wayman, Harrisburg,
“The piece of equipment that
got us the most excited was the museum’s vintage Gleaner Baldwin Model A
self-propelled combine,” Jay says. “Back in 1947, John Kriss sent Ray Garvey a
telegram saying, ‘Have 130 combines cutting in the field today.’ We felt it was
essential to show one of those old Gleaner Baldwins in action.”
The filming, which took a
full week, was attended by Susan Miner, whose late husband, Craig Miner,
authored the book upon which the film is based, as well as by Jay’s father.
Several museum supporters were on hand, along with area newspapers and a local
television station. The event also drew the interest of 12-year-old Jason
Koster, Rochester, Minn., who happened to be visiting the
museum that week. “He asked if he could help, so we put him to work,” Jack
says. “He said later it was the best day of his life.” FC
For more information: Legacy of the Plains, incorporating Farm And Ranch Museum and
North Platte Valley Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail, Gering, NE 69341; (304)
436-1989. Open daily, May 1-Oct. 31;
Monday through Friday, Nov. 1-April 30. Call for hours.