in the year the canneries would send their field men out to contract with the
farmers and they would then monitor the farms through seeding, fumigation,
irrigation and harvest. The farmers had to be ready to harvest their peas at a
moment’s notice when the field man determined that they were ready. The peas were of a variety that matured all
together – unlike the garden peas we raise that mature over a 2-3 week
were planted with a grain drill that had been re-sized for the peas. Peas had to be irrigated on a regular basis
but in Highland the interval varied from seven to twelve and one-half days. Pea plants grow straight and tall for the
first two or three weeks then they fall over because they are weak stemmed so
they were harvested by a mowing machine, generally with an attachment of a
series of curved tines to pile them in a windrow for easy pickup. Then men and boys used pitchforks to load
them onto wagons or trucks. The vines
were much heavier than hay so it was a lot harder work. The harvesting was usually done at night so
as to have the peas at the viners when they began working at 4:00 a.m. or
earlier, often operating 24 hours a day.
The pea season usually lasted about three weeks and, depending on the
weather, would begin in early-mid June and sometimes run past July 4. There were times that Church was cancelled
for one or two weeks during the harvest because so many were working.
viner was a large box with a heavy wooden frame (some had a metal frame and
were rounded at the top) about 15-16 feet long, 6 ½ feet wide and 12 feet tall,
weighing more than 4 tons and each viner could process 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of
vines per hour. Enclosed within was a
rotating drum, 6 feet in diameter enclosed in screens with holes large enough
for the shelled peas to fall through. At the front was a conveyor with 6 inch
hooks that carried the peas into the drum. Paddles in the drum, much like a
clothes dryer, lifted up the peas on vines and dropped them on a faster
rotating beater which broke
the pods open, letting the peas fall out and through the screen. The
peas fell onto a canvas conveyer (called the apron) that was the full length of
the drum and moved upwards on an incline and the peas rolled down against the
movement and into bins. The apron
collected small pieces of pods and vines that went through the screen and
carried them up to drop them off at the back of the viner. The bins had sliding bottoms that opened to
let the peas drop into bushel boxes that were then loaded onto a truck to go to
the cannery. The spent vines were
carried by another conveyor to the stack, where men and boys placed them so as
to build a straight stack that wouldn’t collapse.
The peas would arrive at the viner on trucks or wagons (mostly) pulled
by horses or tractors. The farmers would
leave them there and go back for another load while their employees would pitch
the peas into the viner. The loads would
be from four to six feet high and it could take up to two hours to empty a
wagon, then it was pushed out of the way and another pulled in.
The cannery field man was usually responsible for hiring the crews that
ran the viners and, separately, to contract with others to stack the
vines. The stackers were paid a lump
sum, per their contract, rather than an hourly wage. The farmers were responsible for hiring those
who pitched their peas into the vinery.
The viners provided work for just about every man and boy who wanted a
job; including the very young. Working
on the stack was the dirtiest job and the workers would come home smelling
badly, with stiff and putrid clothes.
Other workers were able to keep cleaner but the smell was
My first work in the peas was when I was twelve and worked on the stack
at the Eddington viner. My brother had
contracted the stack and hired me and Gary Adamson to assist. For payment I received his bicycle. Other years I worked for the farmers, mostly
Boyd Stice, hauling and pitching into the viners. My father was foreman for the RMPC viner for
The vine stack was
owned proportionally by the farmers who brought in the peas and they used it
for cattle feed in the winter. The souring stack of vines was called pea silage
and as it fermented, it had a unique and bad smell that could be experienced from
quite a distance, especially in the winter when the farmers disturbed the stack
to retrieve their share for their cattle.
The pea juices ran in small streams away from the stack and at least
once some pigs got loose from their pen and came to the viner, drank of the
juices and were staggering around as if drunk (I suppose they were).
Highland was home to
four (five for a short time) viner stations: a four viner station owned by
Pleasant Grove Cannery at about 6200 W. on the north side of 10400 N; a two
viner station (a third viner was added later) owned by Eddington Cannery of
Springville, located near 5800 W. on the south side of 10400 N; a two viner
station owned by Hunt Foods close to 10900 N, on the west side of 6000 W.; and
a four viner station owned by Rocky Mountain Packing Corporation (RMPC), at
about 7000 W, on the south side of 9600 N.
Hunt Foods bought out RMPC a bit later.
Their cannery was in Murray. The
fifth viner station of eight viners was built in the late 1950’s by Pleasant
Grove Cannery to replace their older one.
It was at about 10750 N, on the east side of 4800 W., on the north bank
of American Fork Creek.
Innovations in pea
harvesting were frequent and varied.
They included a “pea-puller” which was a many-tined forklift attached to
the front of a tractor. The fork tines
were spaced the same as the pea rows and the fork would be the same width as
the length of the wagon or truck. This
fork would be pushed down the rows, pulling the peas up by the roots instead of
cutting them off. The tractor would then
load the peas directly on the wagon or truck.
Another innovation was to use a hay swather to cut the peas, then load
them with a hay loader. The next
innovation was mobile viners that were pulled by a tractor, picking up the peas
left in a windrow by the swather and processing them right in the field. Next came the self-contained, self-propelled
types which were probably never used in Highland – they were used where huge
acreages were common, in the Midwest and California.
There have been
dramatic changes in Highland since those days.
Pea viners, canneries and sugar factories all disappeared in the 1970’s
and Highland has become an upscale community of huge homes, small gardens and
few animals. The agrarian atmosphere of
North Utah County has almost disappeared since orchards of apples, peaches,
cherries and apricots and fields of hay, grain, peas and sugar beets have been
replaced by subdivisions of all similar colors and architecture. The only ones left who know much about
farming are old men who are unfamiliar with cellphones and computers. Overalls have pretty much gone out of style.
Highland Historical Society Home Page
Highland Historical Society Mission Statement
Highland History Chapters (compiled by: Charles T Greenland II):
Highland Family Histories
1958 Highland Aerial Map - Interactive
1958 Highland Aerial Map - Large
1958 Highland Homes & Families (table with addresses)
Highland Censuses (and LDS Ward Membership List)