Great Corn Belt

Lyon County is in the great corn belt of Northwestern Iowa, in the valley and the swelling uplands of the Big Sioux. It is not supreme either as a producer of the foods which tend to advance the raising of cattle and swine, or of the crops themselves, irrespective of their ultimate value when transformed into livestock. Lyon County, on the other hand, goes along in a substantial middle course. As with other sections of this part of the state, it is instructive to remember the views held by the farmers of the county fifty years ago.

Fortunately a presentation of these views is at hand, for in 1873, before the worst of the grasshopper scourges had descended upon Northwestern Iowa, S.C. Hyde, a pioneer and the son of a pioneer, wrote a little history of Lyon County endorsed by its Board of Supervisors, in which he prefaces his paragraph on wheat with these words: "We doubt if anywhere since being transported from its native plains in Central Asia has this great cereal found a more congenial climate than in Northwestern Iowa and Lyon County."

The writer mentions the drawback of long transportation, but believes that its easier production and certain and greater yield than in the East much more than overbalance the greater cost of its transportation. Mr. Hyde then turns to corn, with less enthusiasm, but with some assurance. "There is an impression prevailing to a considerable extent," he says, "that this cereal can not be raised with success in Northwestern Iowa owing to coldness of the climate. This opinion has no foundation, as will be shown in our article on climate. Actual experience and experiments show tha the mean summer heat of this region of the Missouri slope is equal to that required for the successful growth of corn.

With a congenial climate and a warm soil, rich in nitrogen, it is one of our most certain and valuable productions. Mr. L.F. Knight has cultivated corn on his farm at the forks of Rock River since 1869, and has never failed to secure a good crop; and it has never been cut off by drought, frost or blight, yielding, in some years, as high as eighty bushels of shelled corn to the acre. With good management, the yield is from fifty to eighty bushels per acre. This crop, as well as all others, is raised with less than half the labor usually required on the worn-out soils, or among the stumps and stones, with which the eastern farmer has to contend. A man and a boy can tend forty acres, besides devoting a portion of their time to other crops, the hoe hardly ever being used. This, with a yield of from forty to sixty bushels to the acre, the yield of one crop would be 3,680,000 bushels.

These many years corn has driven out wheat as the bumper crop of Lyon County and Mr. Hyde's golden dream of fifty years ago has been more than realized; for although the county holds only a middle station as a corn producer in Northwestern Iowa the census figures for 1920 show that it raised a crop of more than 5,500,000 bushels in the previous year. Its beef cattle numbered 31,000 and were valued at nearly $1,400,000, and its 16,000 dairy cows, at $922,000. In the raising of the dairy stock Lyon County stands about sixth in Northwestern Iowa. Although it is not so well to the front in the raising of swine, it makes a good showing with its 83,000 porkers valued at $2,000,000. Its hay and forage crop amounted to 58,000 tons, which materially added to its strength and promise as a livestock country.

Source: Northwestern Iowa Its History and Traditions 1804-1926 by Arthur F. Allen Volume 1.