KNOX — The largest piece of equipment at Gordon Farms doesn’t quite fit in the barn. The farmer can’t close the barn door.
Alexander Gordon on Friday proudly notes the spikes protruding out from the front of his new Allis-Chalmers combine, used to harvest the fields of buckwheat, oats, and barley surrounding his Beebe Road home.
“I see this guy’s not sitting on his idler correctly,” says Gordon of a rubber belt, reaching his arm into the machine’s web of pipes and belts strung among pulleys. “Oh yes, he is,” Gordon notes. “He’s allowed to be there.”
Gordon recently spent a week pouring through the Allis-Chalmers operator’s manual and fixing a broken chain straw-walker that carries the grain and straw deep inside the machine. He climbs into the combine and starts it up.
Squeals come from the many rotating pulleys and cylinders in the machine, and its orange spinning reel that feeds the crop into the front of the combine.
The Gleaner is known for its grain-cleaning capabilities, says Gordon, and has the surface area and two fans to blow away lighter straw from the grains that are threshed, or separated by force, from anything else that is picked up by the machine’s revolving spikes. The grain is sifted and separated by weight at the back of the combine, with the heavier grains sent back through to be threshed and blown again.
Sprinkling rain begins to fall. “This is a machine that likes to be dry,” Gordon says as he takes his seat again behind the wheel and backs into the barn in front of his automatic hay bale wagon.
The fans and two-tiered separation, Gordon says, make the Gleaner suited to handle the extra weeds and debris that come with organic crops. A used one, like his, can cost around $5,000.
“My niche is going to be the small grain,” says Gordon, standing across from a field full of buckwheat he plans to harvest in the coming weeks.
Gordon has been raising beef cattle since the early 1980s, but he was attracted to growing grains when legislation was passed last year to develop the New York craft beer market with local ingredients. Malted barley, one of the main ingredients in beer, is difficult for brewers to find from local sources. Many other farmers were expanding with hops for the same reason, and others were growing more corn for ethanol.
Gordon bought the Gleaner F combine last month, ready to farm more of his organic small-grain crops. He received organic certification from the United States Department of Agriculture in April.