Explore Kansas Outdoors with Steve Gilliland and weird farm produce


One of the many fond memories I have growing up as a kid on an Ohio farm is John Deere Days. Back in my generation’s day, local farm equipment dealers were small and as plentiful as the flavors of ice cream. John Deere Days was an event where every John Deere dealer in Ohio (and possibly the country) aired a film depicting unusual and often unseen farming operations across the country and around the world. These were interspersed with clips that highlighted all of the new John Deere farm machinery for the year, like the combine harvesters with cabs and the huge twelve foot platforms… YIKES!

The weird and extraordinary farming operations included stork breeding in Europe (no storks, where babies would come from), mice breeding in Minnesota (yes, there are people raising mice on purpose), the worm farm in Canada and my all time favorite alligator farm in Florida. The farmer collected the eggs from the nesting alligators, hatched them in an incubator and then moved the growing reptiles to concrete enclosures. Eventually, they were harvested for their meat and skin a few years later; similar to the way Midwestern ranchers run cow-calf operations, only with animals that could take your hand or foot off your back, preventing you from getting back on horseback. The interesting part was how the farmer interacted with his “breeding herd”.

So imagine this; The segment started with the farmer bouncing around in an old 1950’s pickup truck and ended up parked on the riverbank overlooking a large swamp. He got out and climbed onto the bed of the pickup (surprisingly he still had all four limbs) and started shaking the metal containers. At that point we were all wondering what he was doing, when out of nowhere the swamp water started to boil with six and eight foot long alligators crawling out of the water and swarming around the truck like a herd of cows. He tossed fish at them like a rancher feeding cubes of fodder or slices of hay, then they each filled their mouths and slipped back into the water. He climbed back into the cab and drove off.

Here are the problems my mind sees with it. Collecting alligator eggs means “stealing” alligator nests, plain and simple, and knowing my luck, I would find the one.

a mother alligator who was a “prepper” and who lived invisible underground with her eggs; do you see the problem there? I would dig in the nest and become lunch.

The next problem would relate to the feeding process. As my luck goes, my “flock” would have this mom who could eat fish faster than I could throw them at her and she would never have to return to the pond; I’d be stuck in the back of the pickup. At that point, the others would come back for a few seconds and I would be out of fish. Remember this was the cell phone era, so my only hope would be that I would actually miss my family when I didn’t show up for dinner, and eventually they would find me curled up on the roof of the pickup. , phantom white and I still hope in one piece.

Then there’s the issue which I’m sure has been hotly debated through the ages, how do you work a herd of alligators? Or maybe one of the beauties of alligator breeding is that you would never have to work them or lock them up at all… now there’s a new thought!

Anyway, I guess this farmer understood all of these issues, just like alligator breeders today. But call me the old fashioned way, it’s just that I prefer to lift something that I could reach through the fence and scratch every now and then without worrying about my arm being pulled back… Keep exploring Kansas Outdoors, although Kansas does not “officially” have alligators.

Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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