Merle M. Barkley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Irvin Barkley, was born in the Mississippi Valley, Missouri, USA. He moved to the Cheval District, near Morden, in 1915, and started to farm. He began to experiment with the growing of corn. In 1934 he expanded the operation to grow corn as a grain. His inventiveness was clearly shown even at this early date. When the “runs” on the seeder he was using plugged, he developed a couple of hand planters. That fall the corn was picked and shelled by hand, however, by 1937, he was able to buy and use a one row corn picker.
In 1941 he was one of the first farmers to plant hybrid seed. He also cribbed the corn, in order to let it dry on the cob. During the next decade, he bought a Habro Grain Dryer and a corn header for the combine, another progressive move to enhance the growing of this crop. The corn could now be shelled in the field. Because of the unusually high yield of bushels per acre, Mr. Barkley, in 1971 and 72, won the Manitoba Corn Growing, Trophy and Title.
Merle’s efforts have gone far beyond his contribution to the corn growing industry. In 1957, he led the way by building a front army truck mounted snow blower. The rotary augers, and hydraulic controls were a positive influence upon snow removal and pleasanter life for rural people. He enjoyed the recreation of building models, and generously put these units on display for others to enjoy.
This active member of the community, was well known as the “Father of the Corn Growers of Manitoba”. When local area corn tours were begun, Merle’s farm was used as a model of “good farm husbandry”, thus encouraging his neighbours and friends to do well. His willingness to try something new and to pass on the information to his fellow farmers was part of his life style.
Merle has been awarded many trophies and awards over the years. The Manitoba Corn Growers Association honoured him with a Life Membership because of his many contributions. The best tribute that can be paid to him, is that he was a good friend to one and all.