Kelsey's cloth seed sack collection a hit at state fair
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 09/20/2012 9:44 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Amidst the 1,500 grain samples and scarecrow exhibits in the State Fair's Horticulture Building is a cloth seed sack display.
The display belongs to farm crop superintendent Ron Kelsey. The sacks, 157 of his 300 sack collection, are tacked, row on row along a wall.
One sack, a 1938 Carlson's Championship Hybrid Corn sack from Audubon, Iowa, bears the picture of the corn husking champ. Another, from Land O'Lakes, is among the oldest once held open-pollinated seed.
The sacks were used by farmers who raised seed for sale. Often they used their family or town's name on the sacks.
Kelsey recalls the cloth sacks, for seed and flour, used on his family's farm. His parents raised seed corn for two companies. One was located in Mountain Lake and the other in Sacred Heart.
His mom remade the cloth into dish towels and underwear.
"When you have ten kids in the family, you become quite resourceful," he said.
Some sacks came with directions to remove the dye so the sacks could be used to make clothing.
His mom had plenty of cloth flour sacks, he said. During World War II, the family received flour rations. His mom would pick out sacks of the same color so she could make dresses.
"The sacks had gone 'green' before their time," Kelsey said.
Kelsey recognized the historical importance of the sacks years ago and began his collection. He picked them up at farm sales and from families who learned of his collection. Some contact him requesting sacks that bore their family name, he said. If Kelsey has more than one of the same logo, he will give them away. If he doesn't, Kelsey helps the family locate the sacks from other sources.
He's received e-mails from Russia, England and Canada from people who want to buy the sacks.
"People have different reasons why they want them, but it's an American history," Kelsey said.
He feels a responsibility to maintain the collection. He stores the sacks in plastic containers, but admits he really doesn't know what to do with them. He's not sure who would want to continue the collection and he doesn't want it put in a storage room.
"It would be nice if there was a museum that would be interested in them," he said.