One of the interesting farm implements at the Buffalo Island Museum is a horse drawn, walk-behind planter. It was donated by Justus Alexander.
The first corn planter was patented in 1799, but it was in 1828 that a human powered, wheelbarrow style seed planter was patented. You could plant up to 10 acres a day, depending on how fast the man could walk. The planter at the museum was pulled by a mule or horse, with the man walking behind holding on to the handles.
Corn has always been a part of farm life in Arkansas. In the 1930s, corn was harvested by hand. A man could get paid three cents a bushel and could make $3.00 a day. A wagon, pulled by horse or mule would go down the rows, with men putting the corn in the wagon as they walked along. In 1940, ninety percent of Arkansas farmers used horses or mules to plant and harvest their crop.
Because many of the rural farmers worked in defense plants during WWII and didn't return to farming, the number of farms decreased, and the size of the farms increased. With the larger farms, the farmers had to rely on machinery. Back in the 1950s Arkansas corn only made an average of 50 bushels per acre. In 2011, 510,000 acres of corn was harvested in Arkansas with an average of 140 bushels per acre.
This is the time of the year that corn is harvested. We see the big corn harvester combines making quick work of a corn field. Yet in our mind we can picture a farmer planting that field with his plow and mule, watching it grow and then hitching up a wagon with his mules and walking row after row hand-picking his corn. It makes us realize just how much farming has changed.
Visit the museum on Fridays and Saturdays 12:30-4 p.m. Admission is free. Visit our Facebook page for more information, pictures, and to enter the monthly BIM Mystery Artifact contest to win a prize. Remember the annual quilt show on Sept. 22.