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Old-Fashioned Harvest Tools

Updated March 23, 2017

Farming technology in the 20th century revolutionised the way that harvesting crops takes place for most farmers. Some groups, like the Amish, continue to use old-fashioned or traditional methods. Many different forms of scythes developed over time; these tools were the most common for harvesting crops, although others also proved very important.

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Farming wheat or grain fields in old-fashioned times often meant scythes. Farmers define a scythe as a harvesting tool with a long curved blade at the end of a long stick. In old-fashioned times, farmers used these harvesting tools for grains of all types, in addition to plants like corn. Being able to efficiently cut through plants on a massive scale was important for farmers, and scythes allowed for fast harvesting, as many plants could be felled with one swing.


Farmers also used sickles in addition to scythes. These two tools are similar in many ways, with the major difference being that sickles were small in size, designed to be used with one hand. The term "hand scythe" can often be incorrectly used in referring to a sickle. While sickles remained in use, the scythe does not require as much back bending and was viewed as more efficient for many large-scale harvesting needs.


Cradles served as the next advancement in harvesting tools, taking a step up from sickles and scythes. The design of a cradle can be described as a multifingered scythe designed not only to cut, but also easily gather the cut grain or hay as it is being harvested. According to Richard Van Vleck of "American Artifacts," an experienced field hand using a cradle could harvest two acres of wheat a day and earn twice as much as other field labourers.


Modern pitchforks can still be found in use on many farms today, and their purpose is similar to the original intent. Pitchforks not only provided an easy way of moving harvested hay, but they also proved a great harvesting tool for potatoes. Farmers harvesting large fields of potatoes found pitchforks useful tools for speeding up the process of bringing potatoes to the surface for easy picking.

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About the Author

Monty Dayton is a professional freelance writer who has worked for the ACLU, Touchstone Publishing LLC, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and many other employers. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Alaska and loves writing about travel, the outdoors and health topics.

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