Harvest Time in Early Chesterfield
By Ann Chrissos
Chesterfield was an agrarian society prior to incorporation in 1988. Area farmers planted a variety of cash crops as well as kitchen gardens for family use. Harvesting was a long and arduous task. It began in July and concluded in October. Peaches were picked in July and sold at roadside stands. Also, in July neighbors helped each other to thresh their wheat. During much of the 19th and early 20th centuries men, women and teens worked in the fields cutting and gathering the crops. As technology advanced, one of the more prosperous farmers would purchase a threshing machine which he loaned to his neighbors. The thresher freed the women to prepare and serve food five times during the day: breakfast, mid-day, dinner, mid-afternoon and supper while the men gathered the wheat. Potatoes and melons were harvested in August, corn and apples in September and pumpkins in October. All cash crops were hauled to downtown St. Louis by wagons pulled by horses or mules and later by trucks to be sold and transported on Mississippi River barges to various markets. By planting a variety of cash crops, farmers increased their chances of survival against floods, droughts, insects, blights and other catastrophes. Chesterfield’s fertile soil, along with hard work, frequently produced large crop yields.