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Silent films in our Hay Harvesting Collection get audio commentaries!

Published: April 08, 2010 by Sophia S. Lloyd

Our collection Hay Harvesting in the 1940’s contains several instructional videos produced by UVM’s Agricultural Experiment Station. Produced in the ‘40’s, these short films illustrate different methods of collecting cut hay from the field and getting it into the barn. They range in degree of mechanization and technological advancement, showing machinery that deals with loose hay as well as baled hay, and comparing horse-drawn mechanisms with those powered by tractors.

This past January, Kurt Reichelt of the UVM Extension recorded voice-overs for these films with Lucien Paquette, a former UVM Extension agent and graduate of the class of 1940. One of seven children, Mr. Paquette grew up on a small dairy farm in Crafstbury Common. He founded the Addison County Fair - now the largest agricultural fair in the state - and last year he continued his practice of competing in the Field Days' hand-mowing competition! Mr. Paquette’s narration enriches these films, drawing from his vast professional and personal experience as well as his perspective on the history of agriculture in Vermont.

The post-WWII age saw an explosion in agricultural technologies, but these technologies reached farmers at differing paces. Thus, many small farms still used horse power and needed lots of human labor in order to get a cutting of hay safely into storage for the winter. One video demonstrates the pick-up baler or square baler, which was a machine drawn behind a tractor and deriving its power from the tractor’s power takeoff shaft (PTO). The advent of this sort of baler allowed the entire baling operation to be done by one person - the driver of the tractor - or two if the hay was simultaneously being loaded onto a wagon.

Compressing hay into tightly bound squares allowed for more efficient storage in the haymow (the dry upper portion of the barn where hay is customarily stored), but also necessitated modified techniques for moving the hay, since square bales can be very heavy and unwieldy. Farmers used hay picks to quickly and ergonomically chuck bales without hurting their hands, built their own hay elevators to convey the bales from the wagon up to the haymow, and some rigged pulleys and winches to haul several dozen square bales at a time up into the hay loft. One video demonstrates older haying techniques; hand raking, stacking hay by hand on the wagon, and pitching it into the haymow – all accomplished with the mighty pitchfork!

"Hand Methods of Harvesting Hay," narrated by Lucien Paquette from University of Vermont Libraries on Vimeo

You can out rest of these films in their narrated versions on the UVM Libraries’ Vimeo page.

Supplementing primary materials like these silent films with the commentary of a local expert is a great example of combining two valuable resources into one. Enriching our media in such ways to create multi-modal research experiences for our users is an important objective for the CDI. Thus we are always on the lookout for opportunities to add value to items in our collections. If you have any ideas or suggestions in this regard, please contact us!