Local News

May 21, 2014

Do you know what this is?


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a corn planter.

This was a very popular artifact and many people sent in their guesses.

Several people mailed their guesses. Marvin De Bruin wrote: “It's a corn planter with the handles apart. Push the planks into the ground; press the handles to each other thus releasing the kernel of corn into the container and letting it (2 or 3) fall into the ground. Opening the handles closes the opening on the bottom to pull out of the ground and press the ground with your foot to close the earth.”

Bernie Bresee wrote: “Old hand planting corn planter.”

Goldie Boese wrote: “That is a corn planter on page 3 of the shopper. My dad used that tool on our 23 acre truck garden farm. I suppose it was used to plant beans also.”

Joan Colbert wrote: “The picture of the artifact was used to plant sweet corn.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “This artifact is actually a modern invention of the Industrial Revolution toward the end of the 19th century. It was known by several names, the most common being a corn planter. These were also called corn jabbers and corn jobbers. The most descriptive name was bill pick, because it describes the point that was thrust into the soil and then opened to release the corn kernels – the two pieces of metal resemble a bird’s bill.

Corn is an American product, new to European settlers and very different from the grains grown in Europe. Native American taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, a method that didn’t change for the next 350 years. Corn was planted by one person digging a hole with a hoe — or a dibble — followed by another farmer who dropped two, three, or four seeds into the hole before covering them with soil. It was back breaking and slow work, two men were barely able to plant one acre in a day.

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