The IL Corn exhibit in Joliet at the Chicagoland Speedway this past weekend featured quite a few stories of agricultural history. Is history your thing? It might just be worth your time to stop in and see us.
We featured an old Model T Ford in the center of our exhibit. Did you know that these first vehicles were made to run on 100% ethanol? In fact, most homes used ethanol for fuel prior to the Civil War. When President Lincoln needed to fund the war, he placed a tax on alcohol (including ethanol) that first allowed petroleum based fuels into the marketplace as they were cheaper comparatively than ethanol.
In later years, when Henry Ford built the first vehicles, they ran on ethanol fuel. But a different sort of war, a war of riches and influence between Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, developed and Rockefeller with his oil fields won. Thus, petroleum as a vehicle fuel was born.
We also feature an old fashioned corn sheller in our exhibit, right next to the brand new New Holland combine that farmers use today to harvest their crops. In the 1920s and 1930s, farmers would walk through the fields, harvesting the corn cobs from the plants, placing them in bags, baskets, or wagons, and hauling them to the corn crib (grain storage) on their farm. As needed for livestock feed, the farmers would use the corn sheller to remove the kernels from each ear of corn.
Today, a combine travels through the field, cutting off the mature corn plant about 4-6 inches from the ground. The entire plant (stalk, leaves, corn cob, husks, etc) travels through the machine, where every bit of it is separated from the corn kernels. The kernels end up in a hopper at the top of the machine, while all the rest of the plant is dropped out the back of the machine back onto the field. This “trash” as farmers call it, will decompose in the field and add organic matter to the soil. The kernels remaining are augered from the combine into a waiting grain cart or semi to be hauled from the field.
In 1920, farmers grew about 35 bushels per acre. Today, we grow about 165 bushels per acre. Efficiencies in our equipment and farm management have allowed us to be much more productive, providing food and fuel for our growing world!
If these stories interest you, definitely check out the video below and consider stopping in to see our tent during the September 14-15 weekend at the Joliet Chicagoland Speedway! We’d love to share more stories of agricultural history with you in person!