Hay Press Helped Farmers Meet Market Demands

Mechanizing the Farm: Part 3 of 3

| January 2009

Today, petroleum-based products are essential to farm operations. But for thousands of years, fodder – specifically, hay – was the most critical form of fuel on the farm. Up to the late 18th century, the process of making hay remained essentially unchanged. By the 1850s, though, the impact of the Industrial Revolution was unmistakable.

In this article, the final segment of a three-part series on hay equipment (see Part 1 and Part 2), the focus is on balers. Now commonplace, bales of hay were once an exotic luxury item. A growing nation’s need for fodder, however, jump-started the technology needed to package feed in a practical, convenient manner.

Memories of watching a stationary baler at work are clear in Duane Junck’s mind.

So when the retired Kingsley, Iowa, farmer had the opportunity to purchase a McCormick-Deering stationary baler dating to the late 1930s he didn’t hesitate to add it to his large collection of vintage equipment.

The McCormick baler line included models in various sizes. Duane’s, a mid-size unit, is belt-powered. “It took several men to operate it,” he explains. “One man pitched hay into the baler. Another man blocked the hay and one tied up the bales. It was always a real dirty job.”

For several years at the Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars, Iowa, Duane helped operate a baler similar to the one he bought. He and his crew took the baler to various events, including area threshing bees, where they demonstrated the baling process.