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Winning Nomination

Wheat brought many immigrants to Minnesota, notably the Scandinavian and German people who grew the wheat. Their cultures have played a huge part in the character of our state: hard work, compassion, and common sense, to begin the list. Money from this wheat accounted for a huge part of our wealth as a state and to individuals, building Pillsbury, General Mills, etc., owned and run by immigrants from out east; building factories, office buildings, neighborhoods of huge mansions and modest homes; and building smaller towns and farming communities across the state. We have Pillsbury Avenue, Washburn Avenue, Washburn High School, and so on. The mills employed thousands if not millions of other immigrants from other countries and other states who came here to work, live, and build neighborhoods and communities. Minnesota is still an important player in feeding the world, which is something that can give us great pride. All of my great-grandfathers and grandfathers as well as my father grew the wheat and my great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and mother cooked the food for the crews of the threshing bees which I proudly and fondly remember as a child on my grandparents' farm in the 1950s. It was as big as Christmas--men, women, kids everywhere in a flurry of excitement. Wheat built schools, roads, mills, and mansions as well as families and communities. When I see the huge Pillsbury monument in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis or the Betty Crocker logo I think of the sweat of my ancestors and the wonderful heritage I have. I would not be here without wheat.
~ Rebecca Ridgeway, Minneapolis, MN

Runner-up Nominations

How often does a place or a person get to say they are number 1? Minneapolis was the most influential milling site in the world for many decades. Since none of us were alive at the time, the best we can do is visit the mills and use our imagination. Imagine how everything that occured in this area was related to milling and the world looked to us. What a special time and a special feeling that must have been for Minnesotans! And to think, Andy Warhol said we only get 15 minutes of fame, he must not have know about the Minneapolis Milling District.
~Lara Homa



A staple, a commodity, and a way of life

In 1880, almost 70 percent of Minnesota's farmland was planted in wheat. That's 4.4 million acres, producing more than 34 million bushels of wheat that year. By 1900 that figure had dropped to 50 percent-—southern and central Minnesota farmers had shifted to dairy farming and raising beef cattle and hogs—-but the state's wheat output remained the highest in the nation. Thanks to increased mechanization and the development of better, stronger hybrids, production had increased to 95 million bushels a year.

This rural revolution was matched by the rapid rise of flour milling--first, wherever waterpower could be harnessed to power a mill, and, increasingly, in Minneapolis, which became known as the Mill City. At the Washburn Crosby Company A Mill, one of the city's largest, more than 175 railroad cars of wheat were processed each day, translating into 12 million loaves of bread made daily from 1880 to 1930. Multiply those figures by the dozens of flour mills that lined the Mississippi River during milling's heyday, and you have some idea of the supply and demand cycle that kept wheat prices high and led to the establishment of huge bonanza farms in the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota.

All those farmers, all those millers, all the grain traders and bakers and merchants and admen and factory workers connected to that one grain—-wheat-—transformed Minnesota. People came to Minnesota from abroad—-first from northern Europe and later from Eastern Europe—-to work in the fields and the factories. They built houses, schools, churches, families, and communities. They brought with them traditions from their homelands that are still manifest across the state. And they have not been forgotten. As nominator Rebecca Ridgeway, whose great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents were all wheat farmers, puts it, "I would not be here without wheat."

Resource Links

Cargill History

Mill City Museum

Forests, Fields and the Falls

Washburn 'A' Mill Explosion

Bonanza Farms

Small Grain Growers

Minnesota harvested 81,000 acres of processing peas in 1999 ranking highest producer in the nation


Wheat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wheat: The big picture

Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator

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