Tips & Tricks
A homemade contraption has been helping one Wisconsin family harvest cucumbers for five decades.
A homemade contraption eases the pain of harvesting cucumbers.
ANYONE WHO’S PICKED CUCUMBERS knows it is hard on the back.
Grant Moseley’s grandfather Glen “Mike” Moseley grew about an acre of them at his Warrens, Wisconsin, vegetable farm in the 1960s. He sold them to the local “pickle station” for transfer to a pickling facility.
Looking for a way to ease the pain, Mike devised what the family now affectionately refers to as “the pickle picker.” The self-propelled contraption allows two human harvesters to lie on their stomachs, close enough to the vines to pick the cukes. Bushel boxes attach within arm’s reach for collecting the crop as the whole thing moves along with the aid of a small Briggs & Stratton
engine and an old Ford Model A transmission. Mike borrowed the apparatus’s gearbox from a rototiller.
“He was quite handy,” Grant says of his grandfather’s ingenuity. It really helped when Grant expanded the cucumber patch to about 3 acres in the 1980s. “We would be picking pickles all day, every day, it seemed like,” Grant says.
Riders control the forward motion with their feet, but the pickle picker doesn’t have steering. So, in the spring before the plants vine out, Grant carves ditches between the rows to keep the picker’s wheels on track. It isn’t the comfiest ride, but Grant says lying down sure beats bending over to pick. “It’s faster and easier on the back,” he says. “But it’s still work.”
The pickle picker has become a bit of a legend in Grant’s part of central Wisconsin. “If it’s out by the side of the road, people stop and take notice,” he says. “You can buy things now like it. They’re hydraulically driven. They’re a lot nicer.” But they probably don’t cause the same stir as cars drive by.
Grant Moseley’s sons, Samuel and David, pause on the pickle picker (above). The Moseleys farm 12 acres of vegetables and blueberries, which they sell at their Moseley Roadside Market in Warrens, Wisconsin, and a farmers market in nearby Tomah.