This post is a part of a new series I started about the faces behind my food.
They say there is more than corn in Indiana, but dude… there is still A LOT of corn here too 😉 In fact, we rank 5th in corn production in the nation– with an estimated 22,985 Hoosier farmers growing the crop.
So, a few weeks ago when I had a fantastic opportunity to go on a Corn Tour with several of my bloggy buds thanks Indiana’s Family of Farmers, I was excited to get a closer look into how corn is grown in Indiana.
Note: The tour was sponsored by IFOF and they compensated me for my time, but all experiences, opinions and fun I had was all my own 😉 Well Miss Liz may have had a little fun too… she really loves her fountain soda.
The tour began by visiting a local family-owned seed company—Beck’s Hybrid — to learn about how seed companies develop hybrids, the development of Genetically Modified (GM) seed along with the reasons why a farmer might choose non-GM seed and why they might choose a specific GM seed for their fields.
Beck’s — the largest independently owned seed company in the U.S. — sells both kinds of seed to farmers.
Straight out of the gate I realized that despite being surrounded by cornfields most of my life, and despite being actively involved with agriculture all these years and despite the fact that almost all of my girlfriends grow corn, I knew very little about a crop that defines so much of my state.
Beck’s was informative and welcoming, answering all of our questions and giving us way more information than I could ever process.
Disclosure: Both gals are good friends of mine… I even have the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party pic to prove it … Nice corsage there Jent 😉
I am sure they will be thrilled I shared that gem 😉
Anyhoo… back to the tour.
I learned more than I ever knew there was to know about corn (see bottom of the post)– reminding me how little I think about this food system that so many of us are so disconnected from…
But for Jent, Leah and the 400 employees at Beck’s it was clear that isn’t the case. The food system is their life. Their expertise. And for many, their pride and joy.
The folks at Beck’s where down to earth and tried their best to unpack years’ worth of experience and education in a way that we could all understand.
I appreciated their patience. At times I am sure it was as frustrating as it would be for me to explain Facebook to someone who doesn’t own a computer 😉 I clearly could (should) have paid more attention in my Plant Science course freshman year of college… just sayin’
We followed up the tour at Beck’s with visits to both Jent’s and Leah’s farms and talked through the seed decisions on each farm with each farm family. (Here is more about our trip to Jent’s farm and more about our trip to Leah’s farm.)
I walked away from the tour with a bit of a better understanding of what goes into some of the very complicated decisions made every day by those who have a passion for our food system and the art of growing food.
Below are some of the things I learned from the tour with a few stats from my pals over at NASS.
Indiana Corn Facts
- The corn plant has both male and female parts, but prefers to breed with nearby plants. (Read this humorous take on corn reproduction from my friend Carrie for more information.)
- Every kernel of corn has a matching silk on an ear of corn. So while you are trying to get all those strings off of your sweet corn, count it as a blessing as it means you have lots of yummy kernels!
- When you pass a corn field in Indiana it is highly more likely to be field corn or even popcorn than it is to be sweet corn—what we eat off the cob. In Indiana farmers plant over 6 million acres (1/4th of our state) in field corn—used for everything from animal feed to fuel for cars. They plant just over 60 thousand acres in popcorn, while sweet corn only takes up around 6 thousand acres. (Source: NASS)
- Indiana ranks 5th in the nation in corn grown for grain with an estimated 22,985 Hoosier farmers growing the crop. (Source: NASS)
- Corn comes in many different varieties, including various hybrids—corn breed for specific needs and traits. (Remember the dominate gene/recessive trait chapter from Biology 101?)
- Genetically modified (GM) seed takes hybrid breeding one step further to take a desired trait and insert it into the breeding process. (Here is more info on GM seed and traits.)
- Field corn and sweet corn hybrids come in GM and non-GM varieties. Popcorn only comes in non-GM varieties.
- Farmers choose which type of seed to use based off of their field’s needs and their buyers’ wants. Consideration is given to where (and to who) they plan to sell their corn, how they plan to manage their crop, known pest/disease issues in their local or region, varieties that have proven record, seed costs, etc.
- Most of the field corn grown in Indiana is GM corn.
- Do you get popcorn at the movies? It is likely to have been grown in Indiana. We rank 2nd in popcorn production.
- When you see a company sign by a field of corn, it may not mean what you think it does.
- When producing sweet corn for a farmers’ market or road side stand, farmers will plant their field in batches so it will be ready for harvest at different times. Field corn farmers will likely plant their field all at once so that they can harvest all at once.
- In the U.S. about 200 million bushels of corn are used to produce food products, about 400 million bushels go into producing corn sweeteners, 135 million bushels for beverages and alcohol, just under 2 billion bushels for feeding beef animals, 1.5 billion to feed chickens, and about a billion bushels for producing pork (and that isn’t counting all the non-food related uses from carpeting to tires to fuel).
Thanks to Indiana Family of Farmers, Indiana Corn, Beck’s Hybrids, Leah and Jent for helping me learn a bit more about corn and the faces behind my food!
I am the mama behind GOODEness Gracious and the owner of Cris Goode Solutions. Here at GOODEness Gracious, we like to keep it light and fun as we cook up family meals, share our super mommy secrets and chat it up about the GOODe life:) So come on in and sit a spell.