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Letter: A teaching moment for Groundhog Day on Super Bowl Sunday

How can Super Bowl XLVIII, played on a 47,700 square foot football field, have any possible connection to Groundhog Day? This teaching moment probably won’t repeat itself for several years. Keep reading to learn a very simple way of understanding acres and bushels; and how harvesting methods have changed, yet remained the same, since Bible times.

In today’s world bushels and acres is almost a foreign language to many people. How big is an acre? How big is a bushel? These terms are used in agricultural circles every day. Allow me to explain how this ties together with Groundhog Day in 2014.

To keep this simple I am using wheat as an example. A bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds and will fill a box that is 16x12x11.2 inches in size. (One bushel = 32 quarts = 1.25 cubic feet.)

A football field is 47,700 square feet. One acre is 43,560 square feet. A difference of 4,140 square feet is close enough for this comparison.

In the spring, the farmer uses two boxes of wheat on each football field he plants. After about 120 days this wheat is ready to harvest. At harvest time the farmer expects to get back 30 to 35 times more wheat from each football field he planted.

The wheat is delivered to a flour mill. Each 60 pound box of wheat, when milled, will make 42 pounds of flour. Eventually this 42 pounds of flour is used to make 60 one-pound loaves of bread, or used in other recipes that call for flour. (From 2005/06 Ag Mag. MN Dept. of Ag. Vol 20 Issue 2 651-201-6688)

During Biblical times a flail was used to beat grain from stalks of wheat. A winnowing fork was used to separate the wheat from the straw and chaff. When everything was thrown into the air the wheat fell to the ground, the straw stayed on the winnowing fork, and the wind carried the chaff away.

This crude method of harvesting was used until the mid-1800s when J.I. Case began building his “Ground Hog Thresher” which was powered by a horse walking on a treadmill. Eventually threshing machines, with a large cylinder to rub grain from the husk, and a series of sieves and a fan to separate the grain from everything else were used. Today’s combines work on the same principal to rub out and separate the grain.

Flour is one of the main ingredients in our food. On Super Bowl Sunday, many churches participate in the “Souper Bowl of Caring” to raise money for the hungry. While enjoying the big game and your Super Bowl snacks, remember the ingredients in your snacks came from the soil on farms that consist of millions of football fields. — Roger Engstrom, Detroit Lakes