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Illinois Farmer Invented World's First Upright Silo
One of the most successful farm inventions ever the silo was "born" on an Illinois dairy farm when a young college student came home from college with what sounded like far-out tales of German farmers who were making something called "silage " by burying corn plants in the ground.
Lewis Hatch, who farmed near Spring Grove, Ill., listened to his son Fred and went along with him when he wanted to make silage on their own farm. The rest is history.
Fred Hatch had just graduated from the Illinois Industrial College, which later became the University of Illinois. Farmers in Europe, he had learned, used pits and trenches to make the "new fangled feed" called silage. He and his father decided to modify the idea by digging an 8 ft. pit inside their dairy barn that measured 10 ft. by 16 ft. They lined the pit with rocks and mortar and then built walls that reached 16 ft. above ground. The walls were made of a double thickness of boards with tarpaper between.
They used a horse-powered chopper to cut corn into small pieces and an elevator to dump it into the silo. They found that, as expected, the tower silo eliminated groundwater spoilage of silage that had been a problem in Europe and found that, so long as they removed a layer of silage on a daily basis, they had little spoilage. However, silage did spoil in the corners of the rectangular structure, which led them to later build a circular silo.
Because their herd showed so much improvement on the new feed, the Hatches built two circular silos three years later. Just 10 years after that, in 1886, there were already more than 5,000 silos in the U.S., according to a magazine report at that time.
The first Hatch silo was in continuous use until 1919. In 1984, American Society of Agricultural Engineers built a model of that first silo in a park in Spring Grove and erected a plaque commemorating its history. Fred Hatch died in 1929.


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1987 - Volume #11, Issue #3