Threshermen’s Reunion focuses on Cockshutt

The annual festival in Manitoba had to be cancelled this year due to COVID restrictions but has now set its sights on 2021

AUSTIN, Man. — Cancelling the 2020 Manitoba Threshermen’s Reunion was heartbreaking.

“We struggled with that,” said Gerry Currie, chair of the annual festival of old-time harvesting and farm machinery.

But work is underway to make the 2021 event better than ever, he said.

Next summer will see the first gathering in Western Canada of the International Cockshutt Club, an event that will take place during the Reunion.

The Cockshutt brand is well-known in prairie farming history and was a major presence for decades as the prairie land was broken and put into crop production.

The Cockshutt 40 is one generation advanced on the famous 30, which included revolutionary features. | Ed White photo

On this day at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum grounds, it’s quieter than on a typical warm sunny day in most summers, with fewer tourists and campers due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but there’s plenty of work going on.

The next day was the Heritage Harvest, a fundraising crop harvesting project for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and volunteers were busy readying equipment to chew through the mature crop.

Unlike a non-pandemic year, when threshing machines would be run by crews of volunteers, vintage combines were being used instead. That way, they could maintain social distance and still get off the crop.

One of those was a 1956 Cockshutt combine, which was being readied as it sat beside a line of the company’s equipment revealing the brand’s evolution.

The Cockshutt name is stamped into the memories of 20th century western Canadian farming — and speaks quietly from under the thick paint here. | Ed White photo

From a 12-bottom gang plow, to a 1920s tiller-combine, to a Cockshutt 40 tractor, to the combine and swather, Cockshutt supplied farmers with essential tools as prairie farming evolved.

Much of that equipment was designed and built in Canada. The company was founded in Brantford, Ont., in 1877 and went on to establish manufacturing facilities in a number of locations.

This 12-bottom gang plow was the culmination of a line of prairie-breaking implements that opened the West to crop farming. | Ed White photo

Its Cockshutt 30 was the first modern tractor designed and built in Canada. That machine became famous outside of Canada for its use of live hydraulics and live power take-off systems to power attached equipment.

The International Cockshutt Club has members in Western Canada but it has generally held its gatherings in the East. Bringing it west for the 75th anniversary celebration for the Cockshutt 30, which will be recognized at the 2021 Manitoba Threshermen’s Reunion, should give the brand some much-due visibility, organizers say.

Cockshutt equipment was known for its pioneering agricultural engineering. At one time the company was a major Canadian farm equipment manufacturer but was merged away decades ago. | Ed White photo

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