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Corn Crib not a Barn


I have the habit of correcting anyone on Flickr who calls a building like the one above a barn.  Such a building is actually a corn crib.  Although I can see why someone might think this building is a barn. A corn crib is a building whose purpose is to hold ears of corn until the farmer is ready to shell the corn.  Shelling is where the kernels of the corn are removed from the cob.  A corn crib is built in such a way so that air can circulate through the corn to keep it dry.  If you looked closely at the sides of this building you would see that there are slight gaps between the boards on the side to let air in.  Some form of corn crib was used to store corn up until the 1960’s when shelling corn on the combine became common.  Since that time most corn cribs have sat idle.  And you can be excused for not knowing what they really are since it is getting to be a long time since anyone has seen one in use.

The corn crib in the picture is typical of the corn crib toward the end of its development.  It was built in the early 1960’s and only was used for a few years.  Most of the large corn cribs that you see are much newer than most barns.  There was really no need for the large corn cribs until corn yields began to increase greatly with the introduction of hybrids in the 1930’s.  Most of the corn cribs that I have seen are build with a bin on each side to hold the corn with a driveway in the middle.  The structure that is sticking out of the roof is where a corn dump entered the building from the side.  A corn dump was a conveyor belt that took the corn from the ground level to a shoot where it was loaded into the bins.

Once the corn was dried and the farmer was ready to sell it the time had come to shell the corn.  Shelling corn was the last big communal operation that farmers in the area where I grew up took part in.  To shell the corn took a lot of people and farmers would come and help each other.  They used a large machine called obviously a corn sheller.  This machine was owned by another farmer who contracted for the service.  The sheller was feed by conveyors that were set at openings at the bottoms of the corn bins.  Some people would have to get into the bins to push the corn down.  Others would have to shovel corn into the conveyors.  I was pretty young when I saw this operation so I don’t really remember all the details.  I do remember that it was very loud.

As the corn was shelled it was loaded into trucks and taken to the grain elevator.  The cobs went out another shoot and made a corn cob pile.  Corn cob piles were a favorite place for farm kids to play at that time.  Usually shelling the corn would last most of the day.  At noon there would be a large meal.  This meal was a joint effort of the farm wives.  I only saw a few of these corn shellings when I was very young.  I imagine that at one time a lot of farm tasks were accomplished as a group effort of neighbors.  Still the one with the corn is the only one that I was around to see.  And this may be more about corn cribs than many would care to know.

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  1. Veda
    October 2, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Personally I would have been guilty of calling it a barn.
    I may have lived in Illinois where there were many of these around, but not ever having been part of the farm industry, my knowledge of such things are pretty much nill and void.

    So glad to learn something new today. Love the photo.

  2. webdzign
    October 3, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    What a lovely photo!

    Thanks for the clarification. I would have called it a barn, too. We have a very large barn on our property that was built in the 60’s. These old structures are very beautiful to have around.

    Thanks for the education!


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