A Passion for Picking Corn by Hand

FLANDREAU, S.D- People from all over South Dakota and surrounding states gathered in Flandreau this weekend to take part in an age old farming activity. Before farm machinery, farmers had to pick corn by hand. Every year people relive that history, by seeing how many ears of corn they can pick in a race against the clock.

“It use to be quite a big deal across the country but it’s kind of dying out and we want to keep that tradition alive,” said Jim Redder, Host of State and National Hand Corn Picking.

For around 12 years, Flandreau has hosted the State Hand Corn Picking Contest. This year they also hosted the national championship. Many people participate to remember their past, but younger generations get in on the action as well. For 16 year-old Shaila Campbell, corn husking has helped her understand what farmers  had to go through.

“Just how the past and the future, how it’s changed it’s made a big difference in everyone’s lives looking at what it was like in the 1800’s using horses and now we’re like using tractors today and GPS and all that,” said Campbell.

It’s also become one of her passions.

“Makes you get out into your community, agriculture. I come from an ag-based family, so it’s a lot of fun,” said Campbell.

She traveled all the way from Illinois to compete in the national competition. It’s something that she’s done for around five years. She’s taken home many titles and she loves how competitive it is.

“It feels pretty good just knowing how much you get and when you find out your weight finding out how much you picked,” said Campbell.

With her whole family cheering her on, Shaila now has one more championship under her belt. She won the National Corn Husking Championship for ages 15 to 20, which isn’t an easy feat.

“Once you start getting to do it your arms start hurting, your wrists are getting really tight and you push on through it,” said Campbell.

So just as the mechanical age has changed the game, corn husking has also evolved. Now it’s like a sport and something to do all for the fun of it.


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