“Two rows at a time, slow and dirty” is how Chad Coleman describes his corn harvest. He’s surrounded by crunching, brittle corn plants, dust, parts of shredded stalks and leaves, and a deafening noise. It's the sound of the many moving parts of a two-row New Idea corn picker.
Coleman uses a 1960 Allis-Chalmers D17 tractor, and the corn picker mounted on the front that’s even older, to fill a 170-bushel wooden wagon with ear corn. He uses the vintage equipment to farm land he rents near Charlotte, Iowa.
These are the same models his grandfather, Allen Reistroffer, used before retiring from his farm near Goose Lake, Iowa, in 1989.
"It’s been in my blood since I was a child,” Coleman said. “I rode in the wagon dodging ears of corn.”
Coleman rents about 100 acres along a gravel road in Clinton County where he grows corn and soy beans. Most of the crop is harvested with a modern (1977) self-propelled combine that shells the corn automatically.
The two-row picker leaves the corn on the cob. After ripping the corn off the stalk, the corn travels up an elevator and shoots into the wagon in groups of two or three. He planned to fill three or four wagons that will be stored in a shed, waiting for customers who want to feed cattle, pigs, or need just a few to feed squirrels.
Farm equipment built when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president is made without many comforts, no cab or heat, although on the fall day he harvested it was almost 80 degrees.
Coleman spends a lot of the time standing up, guiding the tractor through 8-foot-tall corn stalks, staying lined up to rows planted 38-inches apart to accommodate the vintage equipment.
“There are chains and sprockets moving all around you, gotta be careful where you put your hands and feet,” he said.