Big Stone Canning Company introduces its Butter Kernel brand of whole canned corn. A local innovation perfects the process of cutting whole kernels off the cob, bringing canned corn to kitchen tables in addition to the creamed corn previously available.
Early settlers grew bumper wheat crops on south Minnesota’s fertile prairies, land that today supplies produce for a thriving 270-million-dollar-a-year canning industry.
Sweet corn canneries opened in Austin and Mankato in the early 1880s, followed soon after by similar factories in Faribault, Owatonna, and LeSueur. Soon Minnesota’s canners were experimenting with new technologies and new products, and in 1903 the automated Big Stone Cannery Company founded by F.W. Douthitt changed the industry nationwide. Douthitt’s plant in Ortonville had a conveyor system, mechanical corn husking machines, and a power driven cutter that produced the first whole kernel canned corn. The Green Giant Company, introduced golden cream-style corn in 1924 and the first vacuum packed corn in 1929.
Corn is still the major canning crop in Minnesota. The state’s more than thirty plants also freeze and can peas, beans, carrots, tomatoes, pork, beef, chicken products, and such unusual items as rutabagas. Mankato was the site of the nation’s first carp cannery in 1946.” (text of highway marker WM2R64) **
The goal of canning fresh vegetables is long life. The problem with canning, if done or sealed improperly is disease and death. Success in preservation largely hinges on maintaining an airtight seal.
What was it like to be a farmer who knew he had a delicious crop of beautiful sweet corn, yet was at the mercy of the market and the railroad to sell before it spoiled? Surely they dreamed of a way to share this blessing that would take the pressure off to panic sell. How could they sell sweet corn all year instead of dumping all their crop in a few weeks?
F.W. Douthitt created a process that gave sweet whole kernel corn a long shelf life. He had an imagination that overcame the obstacles of the sweet corn industry’s woes. Further, he streamlined the process to a degree that it was affordable for all.
So we pray to the Lord, thank You for the gift of sweet corn to Minnesota! Thank You that You introduced this crop to Native Americans who introduced this crop to the world! We give You thanks for sharing the inspiration of hybridization with those who found varieties fit for human and animal consumption.
We give thanks for F.W. Douthitt and his gifts of processing corn to Minnesota and the world. We ask Your blessing on him and his generations, both in his family and in the field of food processing. We thank You for the example of Your word that good business is in the service and betterment of our neighbor as well as ourselves. We thank You for the countless family farms that were saved because they had a new and local market to sell to!
Will You help us, like Douthitt, see our worthiness being part of the process? Open our eyes to the value any aspect of any job adds to the lives of our neighbors? Whether we grow something, chop something, can something, ship something, or design a better can, may we see and know Your pleasure in our labor? May we forever seek to feed our neighbor that we too are fed!
Labor not for the food which perishes, but for that food which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for on him has G-d the Father set his seal. John 6:27 KJV ****
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!