UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Corn, the most widely grown crop in the country for many generations, will be the subject of the next open house at Penn State's Pasto Agricultural Museum on Oct. 30.
"Whether it's cutting corn or shucking corn -- we'll bring out some of the unusual corn-harvesting equipment to highlight this corner of the museum's collection," said curator Rita Graef. "Also, visitors can take part in a hands-on workshop and make corn-husk dolls to take home."
The handling of corn was one of the toughest jobs on the farm before mechanization, Graef said. For many farmers, it's hard to imagine how corn could be harvested without the sophisticated machinery of today.
"A hundred years ago, corn harvesting required more labor than any other farm crop," she said. "Corn was used not only for grain, but the stalk and leaves made good feed for horses, cattle and sheep. But farmers had to chop down the cornstalks one at a time and stack them in shocks to dry."
After the stalks had dried, they were loaded on wagons and taken to the farmstead, where they were shucked by hand or by machine. Some parts went into the barn for livestock, while the ears were moved to a corncrib for further drying.
"Corn shucking was an unpleasant task, but people in agricultural communities often got together, did it in groups and made it sort of an annual festivity," she explained. "They spent whole days shucking. As machines were invented, the time needed to harvest corn was lessened.
"Early machines took over cutting and bundling of stalks but left a lot of handwork, such as hauling and shucking, to the farmer. We have some examples of these early machines in our collection."
The Pasto Museum features hundreds of rare farm and home implements from the "muscle-power era," before the advent of electricity and gasoline-powered engines.
"By seeing and touching tools and equipment used in early agriculture and rural life, people will better understand and appreciate how early technological developments led to modern-day technologies," Graef explained.
Previously open only by appointment and during the three days of Ag Progress Days in August, the museum is welcoming visitors from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday during Penn State home football weekends as part of a new initiative to increase public awareness of the museum's collection. The final open house for this year is set for Nov. 13.
More information about the museum and its open house series is available at http://agsci.psu.edu/pasto online. To receive information and event reminders via email, send a message to PastoAgMuseum@psu.edu.
Operated by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, the Pasto Agricultural Museum is located on the Ag Progress Days site at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45.