For the last five years, Ron Kelsey of Lamberton has brought about 200 seed sacks from his collection to display at the Minnesota State Fair.
And he has hundreds more tucked away in plastic tubs at home, not knowing that what he has could be considered a part of Minnesota history.
Kelsey, who has served as farm crops superintendent at the State Fair, has collected various vintage grain sacks for many years, saying that he born and raised a "corn" person.
Ron Kelsey poses at the Minnesota State Fair with some of his antique seed sacks. He said he brings about 200 to the fair, which he has done for the last five years.
Kelsey's parents raised seed for two companies during the 1940s, Superior Seed of Mountain Lake and Enestvedt Bros. of Sacred Heart
"I was aware of the fact," Kelsey said.
Feedsacks used to be made of heavy canvas or fabric and were used to get flour, sugar, meal, grain, salt and feed. The color was made to stay in flour sacks to make dresses and undergarments, Kelsey said. In the 1940s and 1950s, people had "gone green and didn't even know it," he added.
"The seed companies realized people were reusing the sacks for a good purpose," Kelsey said. Several of the seed sacks have a description on the back on how to get rid of the dye to make underwear, he said.
Throughout the years, Kelsey said he found the seed sacks at farm sales and antique stores.
"After that, I went online, to eBay," Kelsey said.
Then seed companies switched to plastic and paper sacks instead of using fabric.
"That's why they (fabric sacks) became collectible," Kelsey said.
Among his collection are a couple from the Lau Co. of Tracy that are 50 to 60 years old. He only has one Sears Roebuck seed sack in his collection.
"In all the looking I've done, I haven't seen another," Kelsey said. The reason he values the Sears bag so much is that the company got its start in north Redwood County before moving to Chicago.
The Midwest was "corn country," Kelsey said, so that's why most of the seed sacks he has are from those states. But he does have others from Ohio, West Virginia and other states.
Kelsey figures the oldest sack he has is from the 1930s going all the way to the 1960s. Several companies used interesting graphics, including Jacques, which was based in Prescott, Wis. Kelsey said the owner had a photo of his daughter on the sack.
"I think it was interesting at the time to be able to do that," he said.
Three companies that made feed sacks were Fulton, Chase and Bemis, which continued roughly 1960.
"It was stopped (production of seed sacks) 50 years ago," Kelsey said.
Because the color comes out so easily "a dirty sack has more value than a faded sack,' Kelsey said.
Antique seed sacks cannot be hung in the sun because it takes the color out, Kelsey said.
"I had one on the porch, it was almost white," he said.
Kelsey used to have seed sacks drycleaned, but now drycleaners don't really want to do that anymore, he said.
And when he brings them back home to Lamberton from the fair after Labor Day, he has to dust them out.
Although he doesn't spend that much on seed sacks, Kelsey has seen one go as high as $500 at an auction.
"It had an American Indian on it," Kelsey said.
Kelsey said he continues to search for more sacks to add to his collection, but it's been difficult to locate more.
"They're harder to find all the time, but I'm still working on it," Kelsey said.
Kelsey said he's had a number of families come to him and say they don't have a sack with their family's name on it and if they could have one of his.
"There have been at least six families who
When Kelsey has the seed sacks on display at the State Fair, people are interested in either the graphics, the town the seed company was located or remember making something out of the sacks.
"When I started collecting, I didn't know it was a part of Minnesota history," Kelsey said.