Farming Changes

This article appeared in the St. Albans Messenger Shopping News, St. Albans Vt., Wednesday, August 5, 1992

Edmond Wilcox shows how a sheep treadmill worked while Cindy Ploof, granddaughter of farmer (Roy Hickok) who used it, and Laura Sizen watch.

Sheep Treadmill

Farming Changes through the years was the topic of Edmond Wilcox’s presentation to the Georgia Historical Society on July 16, 1992.  Introduced by David Juaire, Wilcox explained how the land had to be cleared first, the trees cut by ax and the stumps dislodged by oxen, a very difficult task.  The demand for potash encouraged cutting and burning.  In the earliest years the straightest trees were marked and reserved for the masts of ships.

Until the early 1900s three or four men with razor-sharp seythes would mow four foot swaths around the hay fields.  To cop with plowing the stony fields of the Vermont hillsides, John Deere of Middlebury invented the steel point plow.  This plow proved successful in preparing the fields for grain and grass.  However, as the large grain producers of the west could produce the grain cheaper than small Vermont farmers, the production of grain deceased.  When the farmers did grow the grain, it needed to be harvested with a reaper.  Edmond thought that he might have one of the few remaining reapers in the area.  The reaper binds the grain into bundles after cutting it.

Wilcox went on to describe the changes in raking, collecting and storing the hay crop.  Now bunkers have replaced the vertical silos, monuments into the sky of bygone years of the 1930 and 1940s.  Many different ways were tried to dry had and reduce chances of fire.  The wet hay packed in the barn was an invitation to spontaneous combustion, causing the fires that destroyed many barns in the area.

Years ago, during the 1920s, a farmer who owned a thrashing machine traveled from farm to farm.  The farm owner and his help would assist when the machine came to his farm to trash the grain.

Milking machines arrived at the turn of the century.  Most Georgia armers continued milking by hand until the 1930s.  However as late as the 1950s, Georgia lakeshore farmer, Murl White, milked his 15 to 20 cows by hand.  Now we have milking parlors and pipeline milkers in stanchion barns.

Edmond then introduced University of Vermont graduate and active farmer, Laura Sizen of the Loomis Road in Georgia.  Laura is applying the modern technology which she learned at UVM on her home farm to achieve the highest milk production in the least expensive way.  Laura milks 90 cows in the morning, single handed, in two and one-half hours.  Her computer regulates grain feeding in six time spans per day to each cow for the most efficient milk production.  Milk prices are set by weight and butter fat with high protein content receiving a bonus.  As Edmond said at the end of this presentation, “Farming has changed.”

Preceding the program President Ann Bissonnette described some of the high-lights of their activities.  Peter Mallett explained to the audience the paper preservation work which the society is undertaking and Edmond Wilcox described the work of the directors in renovating the Sabin Cemetery.

After the program David Juaire presented the door prize winners Georgia Bicentennial shirts.  The winners were Frances Mallett, Cindy Ploof, Mindy Plant and Phil Ploof.  Refreshments were served by Lee Juaire and David Juaire.

The next meeting of the Georgia Historical Society will be held on Wednesday, August 19 with a business meeting at 7:30 and a program at 8.  The program will feature the third part in the series “Lost Colonies and Forgotten Places of Georgia,” with color slides by David Juaire and narration by Peter Mallett.