Jesus, Take the Wheel of My Giant Farm Machine
Through prosperity and drought, boom years and bust, the farmers of Snow Hill, Maryland, place faith in one of the harvest seasons’ unlikeliest kickoff traditions.
Photos by Arielle Milkman
“You have to have faith to be a farmer,” David Shockley says as we careen toward town in his three-season-old, candy red, ten-foot-tall Case combine.
We’re swaying above the road at ten miles an hour, on country roads where pickup trucks easily swing by doing 70 or 80, as we head to Snow Hill, Maryland’s equivalent of a patron saint’s day: The Blessing of the Combines.
One day in early August, before the season’s harvest sends them into a constant whirring motion in Worcester County’s fields, combines — those gargantuan machines that harvest grain (eponymously named because they simplify three harvesting processes of reaping, threshing, and winnowing into one) parade into town, taking over the main street in a unified red and green line, waiting for a pastor’s blessing to begin the harvest.