Farming competitions in 1911

A a look at farming as a competitive sport back in 1911.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

First, I need to make a correction to the column that ran on Jan. 8. Jim Lees is the proper name of the area pioneer who experienced the blizzard in an ox-drawn wagon back in the 1800s.
Today, a look at farming as a competitive sport back in 1911.
The Jamestown Alert began promoting the American Land and Irrigation Exposition in the spring of that year. The actual event was scheduled for Madison Square Garden in New York City in November of that year.
That gave farmers from all over the United States a chance to prepare their best entrants in a number of categories.
The prizes that would have interested area farmers the most would have been for the best hard red spring wheat.
James J. Hill, chairman of the Great Northern Railway, offered a prize of $1,000 and a silver cup for the best 100-pound sample of wheat grown in the United States.
The president of the Canadian Pacific Railway offered a similar prize for the best wheat grown in North or South America.
Rules required two witnesses to attest the wheat was grown by the person entering the competition along with yield, date of planting and harvest.
Adjusted for inflation, a $1,000 prize in 1911 would be worth about $30,000 today.
But the bragging rights would have been worth far more.
There were also prizes for other crops including potatoes, corn and apples.
The biggest prize was $1,500 for the best crop of barley offered by Gustav Pabst of Milwaukee.
While the cash prizes were substantial, it was the promotional value of the displays that was most important. The American West, including central North Dakota, still had unused farmland that could be settled by new farmers.
What better way to show potential new western farmers the crops they could produce than a show at one of the premier event centers of the time?
There were also door prizes offered at the event. As you would expect at a land exposition, land was the most common prize.
Winners were drawn for things like a 10-acre pecan orchard in Florida and a quarter section of Montana farmland donated by the Northern Pacific Railway.
Sadly, I couldn’t find any prizes awarded to North Dakota farmers. The top prize for wheat went to a Montana man who had produced 75 bushels-per-acre wheat of exceptional quality.
A fact that Montana bragged about all year.

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