By Gabe Ross, Farm Manager
At Gallant Farm, we harvest our corn like many farmers did in the 1930s – by hand. We head out into the field, start at one end, and work our way around the field husking and tossing one ear at a time into a wagon. Some huskers use a glove with a hook called a husking glove or husking peg, these tools help tear the husk open. While working in the cornfield we save the longest and most uniform ears from stalks that are still standing and put them in a bag apart from the rest of the harvest. These ears will be used for seed for next year’s crop.
You understand quickly how Corn Husker’s lotion got its name when you pick corn this way; handling all of those dry stalks and husks can really dry your hands out. There were gloves available in the past made for husking that protected hands from cold and dryness with thumbs on both sides. The thumbs often wore out first; this way you could just switch hands and have new thumbs on both gloves.
When we get a full wagon load, the ear corn is scoop-shoveled into a temporary corn crib in the barn. It will be shelled over the winter and used as chicken feed. Some farmers in the past, and still today, stored the corn on the stalks in shocks, in the field, if there wasn’t a corn crib.
Picking corn like this can be somewhat of a daunting task compared to combines of today, but there are advantages. Corn can be picked when the ground is muddy and a tractor or combine would sink. Hand picking also allowed farmers and family members to spend quality time together and talk about life or plan for next year’s crop. Next time you see a combine out harvesting, imagine what it would have been like to bring in that crop 80 years ago.
Farm staff and volunteers have plenty of jobs like this to do around the farm, and visitors can see them in action. Gallant Farm is open Thursday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m.