Wendelin Grimm emigrated from Germany in 1857, and he settled on a farm in Carver County, Minnesota. It was impossible to imagine then the important impact he would have on American agriculture. That impact began with a prized possession he brought with him to America – a bag of seed for a hardy strain of alfalfa.
Each year, Grimm carefully collected the seeds of plants that survived the extreme cold of Minnesota. In doing so, more of his crop was able to survive the harsh Minnesota winters. Other immigrants from cold climates had also brought seeds to America, but none were as successful as Grimm.
Grimm’s neighbors noticed his success, and he began selling his seed. At first, many were not as successful. Grimm’s son-in-law explained that some farmers seeded their land improperly, and others used unsuitable land. He stated that those farmers who paid proper attention to detail were rewarded with bountiful yields. It’s estimated that by 1889, Carver County produced nearly 50% of all the alfalfa in Minnesota.
Eventually, this strain became known as Grimm alfalfa. Farmers outside of Minnesota took note. In 1916, farmers near Fargo organized the Grimm Alfalfa Growers Association. This was the first cooperative established just for Grimm alfalfa. Farmers purchased shares in the co-op, allowing them to purchase genuine Grimm alfalfa seed. They then sold their crops through the cooperative. The North Dakota Agricultural College assisted with certifying that fields were devoted solely to Grimm alfalfa, and the members of the cooperative were careful to keep the crop pure.
The crop spread across the Great Plains. The Idaho Grimm Growers organized in 1921, followed soon by farmers in other states, including Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
On this date in 1924, the Grimm Alfalfa Growers Association placed a plaque on Grimm’s farm. The North Dakota farmers wanted to honor him for his development of such a valuable crop, and the United States Department of Agriculture credits Grimm alfalfa as the source of modern alfalfa on more than twenty-five million acres. The crop is valued at ten billion dollars per year.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Grimm Alfalfa Growers Association Records. NDSU Archives.
Minnesota Historical Society. “Grimm Farmstead, Carver Co., Minnesota.”
MNOpedia. “Grimm Alfalfa.” "http://www.mnopedia.org/person/grimm-wendelin-1818-1890-and-grimm-alfalfa" http://www.mnopedia.org/person/grimm-wendelin-1818-1890-and-grimm-alfalfa Accessed 12 May, 2015.
Westgate, J.M. “Another Explanation of the Hardiness of Grimm Alfalfa.” Science. Vol. 30, No. 762 (August, 1909) pp. 184-186.