The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

National Cornhusking Competitors
Like Father, Like Daughter

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher

Back in 1938, the National Corn Husking contest had 21 contestants picking corn on a cold, damp windy November in Dell Rapids, South Dakota, but it drew a crowd of 125,000 people from all over the nation with hundreds of police officers and parking for 35,000 cars. The event opened with a 2-mile parade, 7 marching bands, and then the contest.

Ted Balko of Redwood Falls, MN flew the fastest through the cornfield 69 years ago, winning the contest for the second year with a net of 22.64 bushels of corn. It is still talked about today, and the farm will be the site of the 2007 Cornhusking Nationals.

The days when hand-picking was your only choice and farmers depended on their own strength rather than the strength of a combine are gone but farming traditions have a way of being passed on even if the crowds are small, as one dad and daughter can attest-Rod and Sara Martin, age 15.

They both won the Illinois championship at Roseville on the Harlan and Barb Jacobson farm on October 1st and traveled on to Nationals at Columbus, Nebraska October 22 where Rod won the Mens' 21-49 Division and Sara won 3rd in the Girl's Youth (20 & under).

Rod, who had won Nationals in 1998, than lost by an oz. in 1999, said he had signed up this year because of Sara.

And then Sara, who has picked her third year at Nationals, said she was corn picking because of her dad. She had watched him compete and wanted to learn. But both agreed that Frank Hennenfent, of Smithshire (2nd at Nationals) was the driving force behind the corn picking and initially taught Rod the art.

"It's not necessarily being the fastest, or how many you pick, but it's the quality of the job," Rod said. "You want the ear without the shucks.

"Judges take the weight of the corn, and deduct the weight of the shucks that you left.

"You want to pick clean, that's the art of it," Rod said.

He explained that moisture can make it hard to get shucks off, and the type of corn will vary, so it's hard to compare to previous results. At state he had 400 lbs. in the 20 minute time and at nationals he had 321 lbs..

Sara placed 6th at Nationals in 2004 and in 2005 and moved to 3rd place this year. They will compete again and hopefully be at the site of the 1938 Nationals next year where they will relive history.

Rob Martin, the 1st Place 2006 National Cornhusking Champion in the Men's (21-49) class, and his daughter Sara Martin, 15, 3rd Place National Cornhusking Champion in the Youth Girls (20 & under) stand with their plaque at their farm five miles southeast of Biggsville. Each credits the other for their involvement in the competition.