Plant It and They Will Husk


Country MoonLast year I attended my first ever Indiana State Corn Husking Competition near Bremen, Indiana. I was curious because I had never heard of a husking contest before. I remember doing it as a kid out of necessity to get the fields “opened up” so Dad could get his corn picker in the field without knocking any corn down. I wanted to try it again, if for nothing more than the memories. It was fun. I met a lot of nice people. I liked the competition. I was hooked. I went back this year.

Corn husking is the oldest and the most original method of harvesting a field of corn. Initially, farmers would husk the corn by hand and toss it into a horse-drawn wagon that would follow them down the rows.

Essentially what the contest is, in a nutshell, is a field of corn is divided into lands and competitors choose which lands and rows they want to shuck. When it is their turn, they have so many minutes for their class (usually 20 minutes except youngsters and golden-agers are 10 minutes each) to see how many pounds of corn they can husk. A “judge” and a “gleaner” follow each contestant. The judge times the competitor and the gleaner carries a bag and picks up all corn that the contestant misses on his/her assigned row and any that is laying on the ground or misses the wagon.

After each husker is finished, his or her corn is weighed. Then a 20-pound random sampling is taken. Husks that are attached to the ears in this sample are removed and weighed. One ounce of husks are allowed with no deduction. After that, 1 percent of the gross weight is deducted for each 1/4 ounce of husks up to 2 ounces and any amount over 2 ounces, 3 percent of the gross weight is deducted for each 1/4 ounce. On top of that, 3 pounds of corn is deducted for every pound of gleanings. This competition is pretty serious business!

So, why do people come year after year to compete? The history, the heritage, the competition, and the fun. That’s what draws me. I asked Clay Geyer, the president of the Indiana Corn Husking Association, the same question. Like me, he started husking out of necessity at a young age on the family farm. “We always husked two rows around every field, and sometimes through the middle, plus we husked corners to allow us to turn on end rows with our New Idea 324 picker with a 12-roll husking bed. Grandpa would never turn a corner without husking corn by hand. Some farmers just “round” the corner and don’t look back, but I learned early on that I’d rather husk the ear of corn from a standing stalk rather than dig it out of the soil with a screw driver!”

Clay has been involved with the Indiana Corn Husking Association since 2008. The first contest that he ever attended was on Ralph Murphy’s farm in Wabash, Indiana. Husker Dave Williams and his family from Middlebury motivated him to enter instead of just watching. Yep, he was hooked. This is the fourth year that the Geyer Farm has hosted the state competition. Clay admits that, “It’s unbelievable the amount of preparation and time that goes into planning an event like this. It is a challenge, but well worth it! I enjoy seeing families, friends, local FFA and other organizations and businesses come together so we can enjoy a piece of history.”

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