Monday, December 13, 2010

Minnesota Grows Everything!

When I first moved to Minnesota, on this latest sojourn, I discovered how very little I know about agriculture. My wife and I arrived in town thinking that corn and soybeans, the staple crops of Midwest, were obviously the main crops of Sherburne County, Minnesota.

Boy, were we mistaken.

Since arriving in Sherburne County, I have learned that potatoes are the current main crop for farmers. Corn and Soybeans are also grown. In the past a myriad of crops have been grown in the fields of Sherburne farms.

For a very long time, strawberries were a significant crop. In the 1870s and again in the 1960s, the county held annual Strawberry Festivals. In the 1870s, the festival mainly consisted of coming out to the farms and picking your own berries. Enjoy the day in the strawberry fields. In the 1960s and true fair atmosphere developed around the Strawberry Festival. These events culminated with a beauty pageant and the crowning Miss Luscious Red, a specific strawberry variety developed in Sherburne County.

Just as interesting, and possibly startling, in the early part of the 1900s tobacco was raised in Sherburne County. One resident, in the 1920s remembers farms throughout the county having at least one curing shed for tobacco. Another person remembers their grandmother raising tobacco as a primary cash crop in the early 1900s. I find this remarkable. Tobacco is a Southern crop!

In terms of overall numbers tobacco farming in Minnesota was small. At its highpoint in 1930 farmers in the state raised about 2.9 million pounds of leaf tobacco. By 1937 tobacco was no longer grown in Minnesota.

The point of all of this is that the assumptions we make are often terribly wrong. Jumping to conclusions about the communities around us can lead to some very confusing interpretations. As family and local historians we have to be prepared to open ourselves to new, and often startling, facts and details about our communities. When we are open to new discoveries the practice of local history truly becomes exciting.

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