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September 20: Good Corn is No Accident

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In an effort to encourage future generations of farmers, the Better Farming Association of Barnes County sponsored programs that appealed to boys. The big project for 1912 was the corn growing contest. The boys were challenged to grow the highest yield per acre. The Association noted that its most important work was arousing an interest in farming as a career.

On this date in 1912, 112 Barnes County boys were enrolled in the corn yield contest, enticed by valuable prizes. Third place was $10; second was $15; and first place was a whopping $25 in gold. Those winners would also be eligible to compete for state prizes to be awarded in September.

The best yield was not the only prize in the contest. Another challenge was to produce better seed. Thirty-five boys were growing a half-acre and twenty-one were growing a quarter acre in an effort to grow improved seed corn. Just like the yield contest, they were eligible for prizes and a chance to compete at the state level.

Volunteer experts were instrumental in the success of the program. They went to the homes of the boys to instruct them in the preparation of the ground, the planting, and the cultivation of the crop. The experts also provided guidance in the selection and curing of seed corn. The Better Farming Association considered the development of improved corn as another important purpose of the contest.

In addition to the corn contests, the Better Farming Association of Barnes County planned to sponsor a series of agricultural fairs in seven of the county’s towns. Local businessmen provided prizes for the best exhibits of corn and other farm products. Experts were scheduled to judge the contests and explain why the winners were selected. They would also be available to offer instruction on best farming practices. Later in the year, the local the winners would gather for a fair in the county seat of Valley City, and the winners there would advance to state.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


  • Bottineau Courant. “Interesting Boys.” Bottineau ND. 9/20/1912. Page 1.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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