Guardians of the Harvest: The History of the Scarecrow
September 13, 2023
Autumn decorations are arguably some of the most beautiful of the year; the warm tones and bright leaves spruce up homes and storefronts. One of the most traditional autumn decorations is the scarecrow – a funny, straw-stuffed man often adorning porches and craft stores. However, this little man wasn’t always just a decoration. As many know, scarecrows were created by farmers as an agricultural tool. In fact, scarecrows have a long history in agriculture!
The History of the Scarecrow
The scarecrow was first used to scare birds away from precious crops during harvest. Farmers used the first recorded scarecrows in ancient Egypt to protect their crops from flocks of quail. Farmers often made scarecrows out of tunics and nets hung on reeds during this time. Soon, the practice would spread. The ancient Greeks began putting wooden statues of gods in their fields to frighten birds away from their crops. And as they often did, the Romans followed suit, using statues of their gods in their fields. Around this time, Japanese farmers used their own scarecrows, dressing objects in raincoats and hats in their rice fields.
The Romans were credited with introducing the scarecrow to Europe. As their armies marched through Europe, men carried scarecrows as a scare tactic. After Europeans caught wind of the practice, scarecrows began to pop up all over the continent. European farmers started to stuff old clothes with straw and top them with gourds. Farmers mounted these mounted on poles through their fields. Additionally, these scarecrows were often affiliated with the boogeyman legend, a supernatural figure used to scare children. So, these scarecrows kept birds and meddling children out of the fields – an effective way to kill two birds with one stone (no pun intended).
Eventually, the scarecrow came to the U.S. with European immigrant farmers. This variation of the scarecrow – the straw-stuffed man with a gourd for brains – would become the most recognized scarecrow in North America. However, scarecrows are rarely used for their original purpose anymore. After World War II, the rise of pesticides ended the utilization of straw men. However, scarecrows are widely used as autumn and Halloween decorations to celebrate the harvest season.
Scarecrow Festivals Today
If you love scarecrows and all things harvest season, check out the Tailgate Festival and Scarecrow Competition this weekend, September 15 and 16! Vote for your favorite scarecrow by donating to their respective non-profits. LFT is proud to team up with our friend Ben from The Bake Shop to create an award-winning scarecrow! Stroll through the scarecrows, eat delicious fall food, and celebrate the fruitful harvest season! If you want to learn more about Kitchen Kettle’s fall events, click here. If you want to learn more about LFT’s autumn events, click here.
We look forward to seeing you. Have a happy harvest season!