Saturday, February 13, 2010


For me the history of the Novinger Family is made up of the Stories of Family Members, the Places that Novingers have lived, and the Jobs and Experiences of Individual Family Members.

One of my earliest memories until 1946 when I was 7 on the farm near Unionville, Missouri, was of Dad picking corn by hand.

Since the whole process of taking care of the horses or mules, harnessing them each morning, picking the corn by hand, hauling it to the crib and unloading it was a slow-time consuming job, most of the winter months were spent harvesting the corn. Some days the weather was warm and sunny, other days it was cold and snowy!

But regardless of the weather there were several months of hand work to finish the harvest. The corn was picked by grabbing each ear, one at a time, and twisting it off the stock, and throwing it into the wagon. But the ears didn't volunteer to be picked! You first had to strip the shucks off of the ear and while holding the stock of the ear in one hand, twist the ear to break the stock, and then throw it in the wagon. To pick several wagon loads per day this process had to happen in 1 to 2 seconds per ear. To strip the shucks off of the ear, there were several types of hooks or "husking pegs" that were used to strip the shucks off of the ear. The shucking hook below is the very one used by my Dad, Frank Novinger and is still in the Family.

Husking Hook of Frank Novinger
Used by him from about 1937 to 1946

This work was hard on the hands, hard on your back, and hard on your feet. So when Dad got a Farmal "H" Tractor in 1946, it was a lifesaver for him, that with the mechanical corn picker, saved months of work each year.

International Farmal "H" Tractor

So fast forward from 1964 to the early years of 2000+ and corn picking is a lot more efficient in Missouri today. Corn is harvested by corn harvesters that can pick and shell semi truck loads of shelled corn in fraction of a day. All while the operator is sitting in an air conditioned or heated cab talking on a cell phone or listening to the radio.

But meanwhile in year 2010 Glen Novinger, who grew up in Missouri and has seen agriculture modernize around the world over the past 6 decades, is now living part time in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico. And how do they harvest corn in Michoacan? By hand! But the process is not as advanced as it was in Missouri in 1946. In Michoacan today the corn is picked by hand, placed in a gunny sack, and carried out of the field by the farmer on his back. Horses are not yet widely used for farm work in Michoacan today.

Glen Novinger in front of a corn field in Michoacan, Mexico, in 2010. After hand picking the ears of corn the stocks are stacked upright to be taken in later and used as fodder for the farm animals.

1 comment:

Tracy Novinger said...

This personal memory is a nice tribute to the life and hard work of Frankie Novinger, who was an innovative farmer and good provider for his family.