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Mint Farming in Nappanee

Notes on the mint industry in Nappanee From the Nappanee News and Nappanee Advance--News By Richard Pletcher

Mint to Onions to Hemp back to Mint

  • 1893 $5 acre mint recommended by G. N. Murry.
  • 1894 Onions with 25 employees.
  • 1895 B&O Railroad put in 500’ siding to pick up onion crop for shipping.
  • 1909 574 carloads of onions were shipped.
  • 1912 Competition, erosion and costs dropped onion profitability.
  • 1912 Introduced hemp, which grew to 15 ft at harvest, to keep the soil together.
  • 1915 96% of national production of hemp in Nappanee fields. 

Mint

  • 1900 Nappanee News announced that the mint industry had died out in Elkhart County.
  • 1913 Hartman Bros built a mint still. $3.00 pound. 1 ½ hrs to distill 20 pounds of oil. About 50 pounds to the acres.
  • 1924 10,000 acres in Indiana and 3,000 in Michigan,  3/4 of U.S. mint and ½ world production, $14.00 per pound.
  • 1926 Attempts were made to move national mint market from New York to South Bend.
  • 1926 Mint Growers association meeting. New York speculators trying to drive price down to $5 per pound, last year's crop around $14. 1926 crop only 11% higher than 1925 crop.
  • 1926 Peppermint oil sold at $5.75 and spearmint oil at $4.
  • 1927 Price dropped to $2.50, lower than 1893.
  • 1927 John Getz, filed manager for St. Joseph Valley Mint Growers lost a court battle to prevent the association being put into receivership. The association was insolvent, indebted to extent of $11,000 and operating at an annual loss of $10,000. And so it goes.
  • 1927 Light yield, heavy rains and rank crop. $3.00 per pound.
  • 1942 N.K. Ellis in charge of muck crop research work at Purdue University recommended the following items to watch:
    Use English peppermint.
    Have roots free of "Leopard Spot" (the same as mint anthracnose.) Guard against mint rootrot, a soil born bacterial disease.
    Fertilize 300 pounds per acre.
    Plant early spring using roots (Using plants is hazardous in spreading disease.)
    Spray with 4-4-50 Bordeaux.

    Cut mint when reaches 50% menthol.

    Keep color light with cleanliness.
    The last oil is highest in menthol.
    Seal containers during storage.

    Nappanee Marsh

    Tamarack swamps of Kankakee River head waters, drained with clay tile, with government assistance, to lower the water table 4 feet. First year plant row mint, plow under, next year becomes meadow mint.