Each June, entire communities gear up for wheat harvest.

My hometown of Gypsum is no different. The excitement of theannual summer rite has been part of the Saline Countytown's culture since it was founded in the 1880s. Trucks still line up behindthe scales at the white elevator on the outskirts of town - one of themainstays when many other businesses have long shuttered.

Not far outside of town is our family farm - land first farmed bymy great-great grandparents in the late 1800s. That includes a parcel mygreat-great grandfather Henne homesteaded. To obtain the land, my dad tells me,Granddad Henne had to live on each 80-acre tract for six months of the year, sohe pulled his home back and forth between each area for seven years - when the landwas finally proved up.

However, farming has changed since my agrarian ancestors firstsettled in Kansason 160-acres of land. It's changed since my dad was in high school in the early1950s. Combines and tractors are larger. Seed technology is better. Semi truckstake wheat to the elevator - not small pickups. Even tillage practices aredifferent in an era of no-till farming.

Better technology means bigger farmers and fewer farmers. Gypsumhas no need for a school anymore, or a grocery. The town's hardware storeclosed last year.

My brother sent me a video from YouTube video originally producedby Cornell University and Encyclopedia Britannicain 1957.

"The Wheat Farmer" video largely shows the small town of Gypsum and the farmerssurrounding it amid harvest in 1956. It gave me a glimpse back to my father'schildhood on the farm - with its antiquated technology and a slower-pacedlifestyle.

It shows a local farmer plowing and replowing the soil. It showsthe farmer filling a small drill to begin the fall planting.

"Most of his several hundred acres are in wheat, but a few milkcows help the family budget," the narrator says of a practice that has longdisappeared with today's more diversified crop farmer.

It shows the Gypsum high school - now a dilapidated building -still open, the local 4-H club meeting inside of it. In addition, of course,gender roles are clearly defined - the narrator stating that girls often takecooking and food preservation projects while the boys' projects teach themabout production agriculture.

Finally, the wheat is ripe, the farmer gets out his open-aircombine and he and his son begin the annual harvest. The wife and daughterbring lunch to the field.

"They're doing fairly well, getting about 25 bushels an acre,"the narrator says. "On a very good year, some farmers might get over 50 bushelsan acre."

Yes, life on the farm has changed in the past 60 years. Nevertheless,I did notice one thing that has remained constant.

Wheat harvest still involves people - farm families workingtogether to get the job done.

 

Kansas Agland Editor Amy Bickel's agriculture roots started in Gypsum. She has been covering Kansas agriculture for more than 15 years. Email her with news, photos and other information at abickel@hutchnews.com or by calling (800) 766-3311 Ext. 320.

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