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Dassel’s seed corn story now being told in ‘Seed Corn: From Maize to Amazing’ exhibit
June 22, 2015

By Kristen Miller

DASSEL, MN – Although Dassel’s seed corn story has been centuries in the making, it wasn’t until three years ago when the public would see just how instrumental Dassel was in the global seed corn story.

Today, thanks in part to dedicated volunteers and a Legacy grant, that temporary exhibit has evolved into a permanent exhibit at the Dassel History Center.

“Seed Corn: From Maize to Amazing” opens Sunday and will walk exhibitors through the history of seed corn and its effect not only on Dassel, but globally, as well.

Ever since the Dassel Area Historical Society (DAHS) was reorganized in 1992, its members insisted that there be an exhibit that would highlight Dassel’s history of the seed corn industry, explained Carolyn Holje, director.

The story was also so large, however, that the DAHS didn’t have the resources to pursue it at that time.

Five years ago, Kurt Greenley volunteered to take on such a project. Greenley, a retired attorney, grew up working in breeding and test plots alongside his father, Kermit, who owned and operated a seed corn company in Dassel.

He remembers the work very well, he said during an interview with the Enterprise Dispatch in August 2012 before the temporary seed corn exhibit opened for Red Rooster Days.

Greenley also remembers the other seed corn companies that were prominent in and around Dassel, which is why he was so interested in taking on the work of researching and compiling information for a permanent exhibit.

With the money from the grant, the DAHS was able to hire a project manager, illustrator, substantive editor, and graphic designer, as well as purchase the necessary materials, according to Holje.

Materials include versatile retractable panels that tell the seed corn story.

“We’re just thrilled to have the ability to move this (exhibit) around,” Holje said, noting that although this will be a permanent exhibit on the third floor, it easily can be taken down for other programs that take place throughout the year.

The exhibit features a timeline showing the progression of the corn industry in the Dassel area. It was in 1915, when seed corn development spiked, Greenley shared in the August 2012 interview.

From that point, seed corn companies ballooned with names such as Johnson and Settergren.

With the development of a cold-hardy seed corn, Dassel’s seed corn industry grew to where in 1937, the area was recognized as the seed corn center of the great northwest.

However, it was in the 1950s that seed corn was the most significant industry in Dassel, Greenley explained. In the 1980s, however, Dassel began to see more seed corn companies consolidate, he added.

In regards to the exhibit, Holje likes that there is something for every type of exhibit viewer from the grazer to the reader.

She is also impressed with all of the research that has gone into the exhibit and the input received from those in the area who either worked in the seed corn industry or were directly impacted by it.

Exhibit opening and reception
The exhibit opens Sunday, June 28 with a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum and will include a brief program, viewing, refreshments, and light snacks all corn-related.

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