The Fanning Mill
The Museum has an example of a fanning mill obtained from the Minnesota Historical Society. No information is available as to the manufacturer or age. It is an unimposing primitive-looking device constructed mainly of wood including the gears, but essential in preparing seed grain for spring planting.
On a farm, the tasks followed the seasons in a timeless ritual. Come spring when the days grew mild, one of the first tasks was cleaning seed for planting. This could be done in the barn or granary before the snow even melted. In past days, only specialty seed was purchased. A portion of the best grain harvested the previous year was used as seed. Cleaning was done with the fanning mill. As the name implies, the fanning mill had a fan which blew air through inclined oscillating screens to separate chaff and dust, while the screens separated larger thrash, the desired seed grain, and smaller weed seeds by size. The process was not fast. In operation, the grain was shoveled from a bin into the upper hopper, and the cleaned grain shoveled back into a different bin. The fanning mill was powered by a crank on one side. Power was usually provided by one of the older children turning the crank with others keeping the hopper full and shoveling away the cleaned grain. It was a happy day when farm electricity arrived and an electric motor could be used.
Palmer, Richard. Remember the Old Fanning Mill? Crooked Lake Review, Winter 2003
By Don McCollor. October 2022
Photos by Linda Westrom