Keeping Culture in Agriculture

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The 35th annual Illinois State Cornhusking Competition was held this past Sunday, September 27th just outside of Roseville. Local farmers and community members made it out to try their luck at the near lost art of hand picking field corn. For many, this is more than a simple competition, it is an opportunity to pay tribute to the farmers before them that dedicated their lives to working hard so later generations could have better. It is a chance to reminisce about what they may have done as young boys and men, often skipping months of school just to ensure harvest was completed. Today, with advancements in agriculture we don’t have to work as hard, often harvesting in a day what may have taken several thousand men to complete less than 100 years ago. But on cornhusking day, all of that is forgotten as we go back to a simpler time where success was not achieved by owning the latest and greatest machine, but rather the hard work and determination of an American farmer.

The competition is simple, go down the row of corn pulling off every ear and throw it in the cart as fast as you can for twenty minutes. Each land (runway through the corn) has a team of four individuals: picker, gleaner, tractor driver, and timer. The gleaner walks behind the picker bagging any ears of corn the picker may have missed. These missed ears are weighed and deducted along with the husks the picker leaves on the ears. The best pickers in the field are not only fast, but clean, leaving minimal ears behind and shucking the entire husk off of the ear.

Cornhusking has a rich tradition; bringing together multiple generations.
Cornhusking has a rich tradition, bringing together multiple generations.

There are multiple classes of pickers including: peewee, young adults, open, men, women, and seniors. Top individuals from each class will be invited to the National Cornhusking Competition that is to be held in West Lafayette, IN on October 17th and 18th. It is very impressive to watch the older generations compete so aggressively, and the younger groups give hope that competitions such as these will be enjoyed on into the future.

Young picker drew quite the crowd!
Young picker drew quite the crowd!

Agriculture has a very rich and deep rooted history that is founded upon hard work and a dream for a better life. This is demonstrated across the country at more than just corn husking competitions, you can see it at antique tractor days, thresher reunions, and horse drawn plow contests among many others. These gatherings are humbling and remind us how much we have to thank our forefathers for. In a day when so much of our culture has been forgotten it is refreshing to attend such an event.

***Western Illinois University’s very own Dr. Gruver is a huge advocator of the contest and has participated for several years now. He gathered a crew of WIU students to help assist the event. Shout out to Dr. Gruver and the rest of the Ag Department’s professors for encouraging students to get involved in the community!

Dr. Gruver unloads this years haul.
Dr. Gruver unloads this year’s haul!

IMG_1551My name is Garrett Feik, I’m a senior at Western Illinois University majoring in ag business and minoring in agronomy. I’m a member of both the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and Agronomy Club. Back home in Aledo, IL I spend much of my time managing and hunting whitetails when I’m not with friends and family.

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