WILLMAR — Nature's beauty is enhanced as the last bits of light cast a golden hue over a wheat field Tuesday evening around sunset in northeast Willmar.

When Kandiyohi County was settled in the late 1850s, wheat was the primary crop for many here and across Minnesota. Farmers also grew corn, oats and produce for their own consumption and to trade for other goods.

Wheat was first planted in Minnesota about 1820 on an island at the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers by Jean Baptiste, according to the Minnesota History Magazine. It was about 1858 before wheat production grew to sufficient levels to be commercially important in Minnesota.

Population growth across Minnesota, along with the development of railroads and Minnesota mills, helped wheat production grow in Minnesota. In 1889 and again in 1899, Minnesota was the top state in wheat production, according to the Minnesota History Society.

There were about 1,000 acres of wheat planted in Kandiyohi County in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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The Red River Valley region in northwest Minnesota remains the largest wheat-producing district in Minnesota, with 1.2 million acres planted in 2019, which produced 70.3 million bushels of wheat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.