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A Little Barley History

Kindred began as an agricultural community and that tradition continues today. Platted in 1880 when the railroad made it that far the city was named after William A Kindred.   Kindred was not incorporated as a City until 1949 however.  

Kindred is full of family histories and agricultural successes.  Kindred farmer Sam Lykken played a significant role in barley today.

"When the refined barely became available to upper Midwest farmers during the 1940's it carried the name Kindred."

                  An exert from Hulse Westhope, Life as a Former Farm Boy, Chapter: An Agrarian Gift.


Retired when I met him, Sam Jr. had run a successful farm machinery business. Selling farm equipment isn’t that far afield from farming, but far enough to offer a degree of certainty impossible for farmers.  But then, one needs to consider the uncertain rewards of farmers. The single barley plant that Sam Lykken nurtured to maturity yielded eighteen kernels.  Sam Jr. said, “I distinctly remember him shelling it out at the kitchen table.”


  Eventually, Sam Lykken offered some of the barley he’d grown to agronomists at the North Dakota Agricultural College, now North Dakota State University, to use for testing and breeding.  When the refined barley became available to upper midwestern farmers during the 1940’s it carried the name Kindred, Lykken’s hometown.

    There were four rust epidemics in the 1950’s, but damage to the region’s barley crop was negligible.  Steffenson, the plant pathologist, explained that what made Kindred special was its “T-gene,” which enabled resistance to the wheat stem rust fungus that attacks both wheat and barley.  The fungus constantly adapts to its environment and eventually overcomes a plant’s defenses. Both decades later, the Kindred T-gene still helps protect upper mid-western barley varieties.

     Lykken’s selection of what became Kindred barley has to be the most significant contribution to barley production in the Upper Midwest during the twentieth century, Steffenson said.  He stressed, “Farmers will no obtain good yields or malt quality unless there is rust protection in the varieties they grow.  The savings to growers must have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

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