Although children dreaded cleaning out the barn and the chicken house, the result of their labor was free fertilizer that helped to renew soil nutrients and increase crop yields. Horse and cow waste was shoveled into a manure spreader and driven around the field as the machine flung the material on top of the soil. Chicken manure was spread on the family’s vegetable garden by hand.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt.

A manure spreader at work in front of a plow.

“We’d have … the team of horses on [a] manure spreader and pull it close to the door. From there on we used the shovel to pick up the manure, throw it in the spreader… [When the spreader was full, we’d] take it out to the field … throw it in gear, and it would throw the manure out.” —
Herbert Heine