On 8 January 1877, Canterbury’s first harvest machine was trialled at Riccarton Farm by the Deans. It is so hard to imagine today that fields of wheat and barley once grew alongside Riccarton Road and Deans Ave.
This was not the first time a new farming invention had been broken in by the Deans. In 1857, Jane Deans imported the first reaping machine in New Zealand. Instead of being pulled by a team of horses, it was pushed and saved on time and labour.
Surveyor Robert Park – future father-in-law of John Deans II and surveyor of the township of Ashburton (1863) – was so fascinated by this new break-through in farming that he followed it back and forth for hours at Riccarton, timing its effectiveness with his pocket-watch.