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Harvest Tales - Cowley County

Harvest stories submitted by Kansans for the online exhibit, Wheat People.
Submit your own at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov.

Paul Lawrence

Winfield Seems Like an Unlikely Place for Custom Combining

Winfield, Kansas, seems like an unlikely place to find a custom combining operation, however, it all started in the "dirty 30's" (1938) by an enterprising fellow by the name of John S. Lawrence. He and his wife, Mildred, had a family of three boys and three girls, and he had a desire to have a farming operation with the family as the support crew. . . .

He finally decided to buy two John Deere 12A, 6 ft. cut, power take-off combines. In addition to harvesting our crops, we immediately started looking for custom combining. This turned out to be plentiful at $4 per acre. In the early days, the wheat was hauled to the elevator or granary with half-ton Ford pickups equipped with sideboards and overload springs so they could haul thirty to forty bushels of grain. . . .

As time progressed, a third John Deere tractor, equipment and a 12A combine was added in 1941. More opportunity for share cropping wheat and barley as well as custom work of all kinds (plowing, working soil, planting wheat, barley and oats, mowing alfalfa and prairie hay, combining standing crops and picking up crops out of the swath with a pickup attachment on the 12A's) became available.

After three 12A's were in operation, the local John Deere dealer arranged for the John Deere Company to send a photographer to take pictures of the three combines working together. A picture of the combines appeared in the company magazine, The Furrow.

The Lawrence operation flourished, which kept the family, and occasionally others, very busy from early spring until late fall. Most of the work was done within 20 miles of Winfield. . . . The farming and custom farming operation continued right on through World War II. . . .

When tractors and equipment became available again after the war, more farmers bought their own equipment to do their work and the Lawrence operation was split up with members branching out into their own farming operations.

"Harvest Tales" is part of the online exhibit, Wheat People:  Celebrating Kansas Harvest.