Each year on the last day of the corn harvest, Scott County farmer Jerry Boldt and his helpers pick the last few rows of corn by hand in honor of his ancestors and some others. That includes Boldt’s great-grandfather, Claus, the first Boldt to occupy the farm located west of West Lake Park. Claus Boldt picked his entire crop by hand.
Any harvest is, of course, important to a farmer. But the 2008 harvest, which ended Nov. 29, was especially meaningful to Jerry Boldt, who occupies the family farm with his wife, Bonnie.
This year marked the 100th year the farm has been owned by the Boldt family.
Claus Boldt rented the farm and moved onto the land in 1878, says Jerry Boldt. Jerry Boldt’s grandfather, Herman Boldt, signed the papers to buy the place in 1908. He was followed on the farm by Jerry’s late parents, Walter and Margaret Boldt.
Jerry Boldt grew up on the farm and guesses he’s been involved in about 40 harvests there.
“I don’t remember not doing it,” he says.
Most of those four decades Boldt harvested the crop by himself. In recent years, other folks, including his sons Jared and Jorden, have been involved. This year wife Bonnie and the Boldt’s two granddaughters, Kaylee Wulf and Kylie Boldt, came to the field to participate in the harvest’s historic hand-picking conclusion.
“Harvest is kind of special,” Boldt says as he scans the corn, which stands between two massive Deere combines facing one another, about to be hand picked. “You’re glad to be done with it but sort of sad to see it end.”
Claus Boldt raised wheat in addition to corn. Herman also raised a lot of potatoes. “That’s why we’re here today,” Boldt says, “because they put in their time.”
As the hand-picking takes place, Boldt reverently dedicates individual ears to deceased family members, neighbors and friends.
“This ear’s for you, Claus,” he’ll say, for example, as he throws an ear of corn into one of the parked combines. “It gets kind of emotional at times,” he admits.
Boldt always pauses a bit and contemplates over the last ear picked by hand.
“Back in the old days,” he says, “if you picked a hundred acres by hand, when you got to the last ear it must have been pretty special. That’s why I sort that last ear out from the others.”
This was a good year, Boldt says of the 2008 corn crop. The last bad year? He says it was 1988 because of a drought.
“It was hard to find a last ear to pick,” he jokes.
The ears are ice cold, and the hand-picking ceremony will be followed by lunch to celebrate the end of the harvest. The meal traditionally features hot chili to warm the cold farm workers.
Boldt says he never knows for sure where the harvest of corn will end, with the last few stalks standing, awaiting hand-picking. This year, though, he arranged for that to be on a hill north of the farmhouse and south of Locust Street.
Those stalks, now picked clean, will proudly stand aloft in the harvested field until its planting time in 2009, serving as a reminder of this special 100th harvest.
Copyright Dec. 10, 2008. This article and photo appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.