The fields have ripened right on schedule. Today I passed two farmers cutting silage in my two-mile trip to town. Any person interested in geometric shapes would be fascinated with the cuts through the fields are more parallel and straighter the last cake I baked and sliced.
Yes, corn continues to be King of the Grains on farms especially here in Iowa. It’s hard to believe that at one time, wheat ruled the fields of the state’s early settlers. Growing small grains has become a rarity in this part of the state.
When Iowa became a state way back in 1846, some debated whether Iowa even had the right climate and soils for raising corn. As ‘they’ pondered this question, farmers continued planting more acres of corn each year. They must have liked the results because it didn’t take long for corn acres to exceed wheat acres. Just ten years after attaining statehood, Iowa planted more acres of corn than wheat. By 1890, Iowa ousted Illinois as the nation’s top corn producer.
It may have taken awhile for corn to catch on, but pigs were synonymous with the state even before it was the state of Iowa. Roads filled with pigs on their way to market, which probably explains why corn acreage kept its steady growth. It made good economic sense to feed it to the livestock.
Early towns were quite proud to be called ‘Porkopolis.’ Burlington and Keokuk had a battle of words over who actually could claim this title. But an early survey would grant Keokuk the title as there were only three cities in the whole United States that top its pork numbers.
Aside from providing feed for the livestock, the early settlers to Iowa relied on corn for their very existence. Wheat needed to go to a mill to be ground into flour, and that took money. They could grind corn in a coffee grinder. When money was non-existent, corn became the ‘flour of choice.’
For centuries, families have looked forward to roasting ears. The time when the kernels are just right, not too shallow, but before they get starchy. Summer is never summer until sweet corn is on the table. It’s surprising that sweet corn doesn’t have its national holiday.
There have been plenty of festivals and even palaces built for corn. Sioux City, Iowa had one in its early years. As far as I know, the only corn palace that still today exists is in Mitchell, South Dakota. Someone, way back in 1892 had this idea of constructing a corn palace and inviting rural and city residents to celebrate fall with a festival.
We have stopped there many times. The present building was built in 1921 and serves many purposes. It has never left its festival idea behind, so it remains a major tourist attraction throughout the year. During the summer months, there is a gift shop and an interactive education room for children, where agriculture is one of the subjects.
But now as the corn harvest is being completed, attention turns to one of rural America’s favorite sports, high school and college basketball and volleyball games. The Corn Palace Arena is filled with the sound of fans cheering on their favorite teams. In October the sport of bull riding brings in a crowd. Sometimes it’s a music concert that fills the seats. The building is very multi-purpose.
The murals on the Corn Palace change each year. During the summer months high school and college-age youth work at framing the murals with grasses and small grains. Now that the corn is being harvested, the murals themselves are beginning to be ‘painted’ by a crew. I don’t know if they would be called carpenters or cornetists because they take the sliced naturally colored ear of corn and nail it to a background to paint a picture. The murals are finished one by one with the total work expected to be done by November. This year’s theme is South Dakota’s Weather.
Corn Festivals were also quite common at one time. The town where I went to school, Little Rock, Iowa, just celebrated their 70th Corn Show with displays of produce and a shock of corn or two, a parade and their famous Corn Show Buttons. Do other towns still have a Corn Show? Or is there a Rice Festival, Wheat Days or Flax Celebrations?
Barnesville, Minnesota celebrates Potato Days. So I am curious, what other agriculture crops have fairs.
Drop me a line and let me know.