Event celebrates agricultural milestone in Kansas

8/24/2013

By KRISTEN RODERICK

By KRISTEN RODERICK

Special to The Telegram

NICKERSON — Corn fields stood tall as a Gleaner combine caravan slowly passed by.

Farmers took a moment the morning of Aug. 17 to grab a camera to capture the moment, marking the 90th anniversary of a combine that brought agriculture its first self-propelled combine.

The combines slowly skirted along the Kansas prairie. They passed fields — some freshly plowed, others full of crops — as they slowly drove on 82nd and Dutch avenues from the combine's birthplace in Nickerson to where they are made today at AGCO in Hesston.

"All the people who came to be a part of this (celebration) tells you what a beautiful name the Gleaner combine has created — a legacy that will certainly live on," said Kevin Bien, Gleaner brand marketing manager for AGCO.

Bill Baldwin, son of one of the brand's founders, Ernest Baldwin, made sure to be in central Kansas for the three-day celebration. The Ottawa resident excitedly talked to his son, David, about the celebration of their family's legacy. He did not want to miss it.

"At 85, I've never had more excitement in my life than I'm having today," Bill Baldwin said.

He was in Nickerson at 7 a.m. when a dedication was unveiled at the combine's 1923 birthplace. A display with an old combine was placed on top of crushed rock, surrounded by a fence.

A sign on west Railroad Avenue just north of North Nickerson Street tells the legacy of the Gleaner combine. It tells how brothers Curtis, Earnest and George Baldwin developed the universal harvester and named it "The Gleaner" after a 1857 painting by Jean-Francois Millet depicting women gathering grain after harvest.

Bill Hurley, vice president of North American Field Organization for AGCO, was impressed at how the city of Nickerson recognized the Baldwin legacy.

"We appreciate the turnout and the work that the city of Nickerson did," he said.

Today Gleaners are made in the AGCO facility in Hesston, about 40 miles from Nickerson. Hurley couldn't say how many combines the company makes per year, but it sells thousands of machines all over the world.

The finale of the three-day celebration to commemorate the Gleaner's 90th anniversary was a parade that took off from the AGCO parking lot in Hesston.

"It was almost like the good Lord set this up," Bien said. "We hope (people) come and recognize what a beautiful love affair it has been with the family that has brought so much to the farm equipment industry."

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