But I agree that today’s methods are a far cry from the way my dad produced corn in the 1920s.
Dad saved a basket full of the best ears of corn from each year’s crop to have seed for the next season. On a winter’s day, he’d sit with that basket at his side and a container in his lap. He’d shell off the irregular end grains from each ear and save those for the chickens. Then he’s shell the best kernels into the container and toss the cobs in a gunny sack.
He’d let the chickens pick over the cobs, and later I’d gather them up for starting fires.
Saving the best grains for seed for the next year was routine in days when the word "hybrid" related to mules but not to seed corn.
Dad put the dry seed in an open-weave cloth bag and hung it from the rafters in a way that thwarted the attempts of mice, rats and birds to eat it.
The next year’s crop started with fall plowing.
Dad hitched our horse Steamboat and his partner to a walking plow and tied the leather driving lines around his waist. He’d turn the plow to drag it to the field, holding the plow’s wooden handles to keep it from digging in en route.
He drove the mules by voice and by an occasional slap or tug on the lines. Both hands were busily guiding the plow to cut straight furrows the proper depth and width.
The fresh soil tumbled over, exposing old roots, fishing worms and an occasional black snake or bumble bees’ nest. Working back and forth across the field for hours at a time for several days, he prepared 30 or 40 acres to lay fallow all winter.
Freezing and thawing would mellow the ground.
In the spring, when the soil was ready, he’d ride the disk to break up the plowed ground. He’d harrow the fields to further pulverize the soil.
Some men used rollers, heavy metal things somewhat like a disk, that broke up clods when necessary. Ingenious farmers used logs to make a drag to pull in certain conditions.
In early summer, Dad poured his precious seed into the planter hoppers. He drove a metal post at each end of the row to stretch a tight guide wire. The wire had knots at regular intervals that triggered the planter to discharge three grains in a regular pattern, in hills 3 feet apart. Special plates in the hopper bottom dispensed the corn, sending it through a spout and into the ground. At about the same moment, the wide, concave planter wheel pressed soft earth against the seeds.
No, Mr. City Fellow, farmers didn’t really have it so easy. At least Dad didn’t just plant and harvest, and today’s farmers don’t, either. Enjoy your cornflakes, and remember that feeding you is what farmers do.