Wendelin Grimm

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Winning Nomination

In 1859, Wendelin Grimm and his wife Julianna, German immigrant farmers, purchased acreage in northern Carver County and proceeded to clear the Big Woods and farm the land utilizing the farming practices of their native land. One of these practices was that of seed-saving. A small wooden box that Grimm brought with him contained seed of what was then called everlasting clover. For the next 15 years he religiously planted and collected seed from the plants that survived the Minnesota winters. The result of this selection process was the first winter-hardy alfalfa in North America.

For the first half of this century, Grimm Alfalfa was well known to anyone who had a connection with agriculture. Although at least five other alfalfa introductions were attempted in Canada and the United States, this is the only one that resulted in a winter-hardy strain. It is the source of all modern varieties of alfalfa now grown on more than 25 million acres in the United States and valued at $10 billion dollars annually.

Wendelin Grimm's first alfalfa fields, where it all started, can justifiably be called the birthplace of the Dairy Belt. Retired University of Minnesota agronomy professor Lawrence Elling has stated that Grimm Alfalfa was the single most important agricultural crop development in North America until the development of hybrid corn.

In 1974 the farmstead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The farm house has been restored and is now used to educate students and the public about the Grimms and early farming techniques and lifestyles.
~Jennifer Cottew, Plymouth, MN



Runner-up Nominations

Developed Grimm Alfalfa in Carver County which helped the area become a significant dairy region
~Leanne Brwon, Waconia, MN


Contents

History

(c. 1817-1890)

Through seed saving, the Dairy Belt was born

In the 1850s and 1860s, farmers from Germany and Sweden began settling in the east-central region of Minnesota. One of those immigrants was Wendelin Grimm, who, along with his wife, Julianna, bought acreage near Chaska in northern Carver County in 1857.

Among the few possessions that Grimm brought with him from Germany was a box of alfalfa seed. Grimm tended his alfalfa crop closely that first year, laboriously gathering the seeds from the plants that survived the winter. He repeated this seed-saving process over the next fifteen years, until he had a full crop of alfalfa capable of surviving Minnesota's weather extremes. He called his crop ewiger Klee, or everlasting clover. It was the first winter-hardy alfalfa in North America.

Neighboring farmers took notice of Grimm's flourishing crops and well-fed cattle and gradually switched to his seed strain as a source of fodder and nourishment for the soil. Over time, Grimm Alfalfa (officially acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1903) became the dominant strain of this forage crop grown in the Midwest. It is the source of all modern varieties of alfalfa, now grown on more than twenty-five million acres in the United States.

The Grimms' farmstead, built in 1876 of Chaska brick, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Today, it is used for agricultural education programs.

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