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posted: 10/17/2017 12:15 PM

Volunteers help bring in harvest at Kline Creek Farm

Volunteers help bring in the harvest at Kline Creek Farm

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  • At Kline Creek Farm's Corn Harvest this weekend, visitors can help pick corn like farmers did in the 1890s for animals to eat this winter.

    At Kline Creek Farm's Corn Harvest this weekend, visitors can help pick corn like farmers did in the 1890s for animals to eat this winter.
    Courtesy of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

  • Participants of all ages can help the staff at Kline Creek Farm near West Chicago harvest corn from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

    Participants of all ages can help the staff at Kline Creek Farm near West Chicago harvest corn from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
    Courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

 
By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent

Kline Creek Farm near West Chicago is looking for a few good volunteer farm hands to help bring in the harvest.

Corn-pickers will gather from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 21 and 22, at the DuPage County Forest Preserve District property, 1N600 County Farm Road, to gather this season's yield.

"Harvest season is an important season," said Dennis Buck, a heritage interpreter at the living-history farm. "This is one of our cornerstone events. We'll be harvesting this year's corn crop and we'll be doing it 1890s-style, which is to say, by hand."

Buck said the corn will be used as feed for the farm's sheep, horses, cows, turkeys and chickens.

Participants are advised to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes.

"You don't need to wear gloves, but people do need to be aware they'll be walking among corn stalks," Buck said. "I tend to recommend wearing long pants and sleeves."

The farmstead, including its buildings, fields, visitors center and educational facilities, covers more than 200 acres, but the field where people will be working is about two acres.

Volunteers will pluck feed corn from near the base of the stalks.

Each stalk grows only one cob, he said.

"The corn is usually down at a pretty low level, so even little kids can reach it," he said. "We'll pull back the leaves and grab hold of the cob with one hand and hold the leaves of the husk with the other."

With a yank, the cob pops off and the corn is tossed into a wagon for husking. The corn is then left to dry in a corn crib before it is shelled and ground to use as livestock feed.

Buck said most of the corn grown at Kline Creek Farm is sold. Most of the corn picked on corn harvest days, though, stays at the farm.

Farm staff will finish picking the remainder of the corn crop and will use an 1890s-style corn binder, a forerunner of the combine, to cut the stalks after the corn has been picked, Buck said.

"We won't be using modern equipment," he said. "We do have some horse-drawn implements that we use."

Before the weekend volunteers get to their field work, Buck said they will attend 10- to 15-minute group educational sessions at the farm's "corn college," where they'll learn about the process of getting corn from the field to the farm table, in the case of sweet corn, or to the animals' feed troughs, in the case of feed corn.

After the harvesting, visitors may take some of their corn husks to the farmhouse where they can learn how to make them into dolls. Visitors also may visit the farm's animals and take tours of the historic house every hour on the hour.

Buck said harvesting corn is a great way for people to connect with their food. And doing it the 1890s way is a great way to experience a taste of 19th-century life in DuPage County, a fact that has made the annual event popular.

"At this event, we'll usually get somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people," he said. "It's sort of a family event. We get people of all ages that come out and help us."

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