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Tall Corn Challenge

by Clay Geyer

Published: Friday, October 16, 2020

Walking in the Furrow

It was a cold day and stayed mostly cloudy all day on Oct. 3 as people came from every direction to join in on another memorable cornhusking contest, which is now behind us. The ears of corn were extra large and they were filled all the way to the tip. Ear placement this year was much higher than normal on the tall, fodder plant; some thought it might have been silage corn. However, the added height no doubt was due to the fact that 75 percent of the field had previously been cattle pasture for more than 10 years.

It was admittedly more challenging for youngsters and those who have been somewhat vertically challenged to reach the ears. We attempted to direct them to the lands where husking corn would be easier for them.

Surprisingly, in spite of the pandemic in the cancellations of the national competition, the farm was filled with Indiana and Michigan competitors and spectators. We were thankful for every sponsor and volunteer that helped to make this event possible.

A cornhusking contest can be a great outdoor fall family activity, and I know that is more than just a statewide competition. There's plenty of room for this event to be a whole lot more personal. It doesn't always matter if you place within the top three of your class to qualify for a national competition as long as you can husk more corn than your brother or friend. Competition between family members is nothing new. The competition for many is that they just want to beat their own personal record or they simply want to compete for bragging rights at school or the next family get-together. A few families or friends enjoy creating a team to compete against other families or groups in that class. But no matter the reason, this day has always been about having a good time.

We always seem to have a lot of interested spectators, but as Sue Nielsen, our promotional director, put it, "Now, you didn't drive all this way just to watch. Let's just get you signed up, so you can see what it's like to husk corn like we did in the old days."

Many farmers my age have memories of harvesting corn using a pull-type picker or combine with a six-row corn head. There was a time when using a machine was considered to be too dangerous; the farmer slowly accepted tractors and the new harvesting equipment. Everyone seems to enjoy watching the horses move wagons throughout the fields and listening to the sounds of the corn rattling from the bang boards. Husking corn by hand, one ear at a time, is a memory that many of our older competitors share. They love to share their stories with anyone who will listen and no doubt they enjoy husking these days when they only have to husk for 10 or 20 minutes instead of for days without an end, and all kinds of weather until all the corn had been gleaned from the field.

As I made my way down through the contest field with our old ear picker, snapping the ears from two rows of corn at a time, it allowed me to recognize and appreciate the time it would have taken if I had to harvest it by hand and then shovel the ears of corn into the crib for drying and winter storage. At least once a year, at the contest, I can experience walking back in time to harvest a crop of corn by hand.

The first full week of October after the contest, I managed to harvest 95 percent of the soybeans and have them delivered to LDC in Claypool. I spread fertilizer and prepared a seedbed to plant 30 acres of wheat. Next on the agenda is picking the rest of my ear corn, chopping stalks and baling corn stalks.

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