RANTOUL, Ill. — Picking and shelling ear corn is a rarity in today’s agriculture, but visitors to the Half Century of Progress Show can see the entire process from start to finish.
Shawn Ashby has been actively involved in the demonstrations since the every-other-year show started in 2003.
“The first show I ran a picker for a little bit that a friend took. Two of us started out with two Model D Moline shellers and we had those tied to where we could pull out of one place with them,” Ashby said.
“Then a guy loaned me this sheller for two shows and then I finally got it purchased. This is probably the sixth show I’ve taken this sheller there.”
Ashby’s working display features a 1932 John Deere elevator that’s run by a 3-horsepower John Deere hit-and-miss engine with a John Deere speed jack, all of which he owns.
“My sheller is a 1940 Minneapolis Moline B2 speed sheller,” he said.
A long line of tractors with corn pickers harvest the corn on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Force Base, now the Rantoul National Aviation Center. Once the wagons are filled, they’re brought to the shelling demonstrations.
“We shell into wagons and we take it from the wagon in a mid-1930s John Deere round tube elevator driven by an 112 garden tractor with a PTO on the front to let the corn out. That goes into the I&I Club’s metal corn crib” Ashby said.
“Normally, my 730 diesel is on there, but there have been other guys from around that have brought tractors to run that.”
Ashby strongly believes in the importance of providing these demonstrations and exhibits for visitors to learn how it was once done on every farm.
“It’s amazing how many have never seen ear corn. Obviously, it’s a whole different deal from what the young kids, even younger farmers, are used to anymore,” he said.
“It’s important that they still know where it came from and how to do it. That’s why we still get the stuff out.”
Ashby most recently gave shelling demonstration and featured his steam engine at the Northern Indiana Power from the Past show at Winamac. He noted speaking to a visitor at the Winamac show.
“This one guy said he was one of the last people in his county to pick and crib and shell corn. He said, ‘you don’t know what this means to me just to sit here and watch this happen,’” Ashby said.
“It’s almost as much for the older generation anymore as the young kids because it’s getting harder to get some of the young kids to even care about it. It’s work.
“I’m glad the people over there will still do this and I’m glad Rantoul will let it go on. There’s a lot of people who put a lot of time in and everybody volunteers.”