Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Corn, again?

 The fields surrounding the old farmhouse, while no longer considered all one property, were at one time, the land that was worked by the original owners of our old homestead. Eventually, they were sold off to a local farmer who had previously leased the land for years. Rumour has it that he has over 20 000 acres throughout the area that he farms. 

We met him, an older gentleman, before we took possession of the farmhouse. We had a load of firewood that, while it was of no use in the city, we were wise enough to hang on to and we were able to haul it out of the city ahead of moving day.  As he was driving by, he noticed us and pulled in to introduce himself. He was very friendly and we talked about the area, the history of the house and of course, what he grows. Corn and soybeans, he told us. He explained how he switched crops every year and occasionally if he could, he would grow corn two years in a row before rotating. 

Well, we moved in Labour Day weekend two years ago and it was pretty obvious corn was the crop of the day. Last summer, then, I was certain we would be surrounded by soybeans. Too bad, corn would have made a nice background for the backyard nuptuals but it would still be a lovely setting, nonetheless.

So imagine my surprise, when little sprouts of corn shot up, and up and up, last year. I asked around, sharing my surprise about the whole situation before my uncle mentioned that corn prices were probably higher. Aaahhh. The light bulb went on and then the realization that we would be surrounded by corn for the wedding and I was a happy camper. 

So, of course, two years running, we are now due for some soybean action. I have no amenities, yet, for raising turkeys of my own, but I can watch tofu turkey growing from my back porch all the live long day. 

Or so I thought.

It seems the crop du jour is corn. Again. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it in the least little bit, although I'm working on eliminating foods processed with corn from my family's table, I love how lush everything looks in the yard when we're surrounded by six foot corn stalks, everywhere.

I did a little research because, quite frankly, I didn't think it was good to plant the same crop continually. It seems, however, that the old adage of rotating corn with another crop is being replaced with continuous corn. Growing continuous corn has it's disadvantages, including lower yields, which results in higher production costs to maintain the same level of end product. Farmers may also be limited to select varieties of seeds that will grow well year after year without the benefit of a year of soybean snuck in between. The advantage to all of this, I guess, is more corn, the more valuable commodity. Although after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, corn is a four letter word around here and hearing the farmer tell us the corn is grown for industrial use, and knowing that encompasses food production, didn't turn my crank either. My concern, is the effect on these fields that have been worked for 150 years. Is this the right thing for this land that is in a symbiotic relationship with our old farmhouse? I wonder.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, I lend you my ear! (Sorry, I just couldn't resist!)

What are your thoughts?

 ~Be well friends~


Kathy in KY said...

I'm a firm believer in Barbara Kingsolver's book, and the localvore movement. Farming is industrialized these days, I wish it would get back to the smaller farms where they produced what they'd need to survive, with smaller fields of different crops, for the sake of saving the land. It requires so much fertilizer and pesticide to grow large fields, and then there's all the run-off from the fields into the water shed. It's like a every turning vicious cycle. But I do have to agree with you that 6 foot corn surroundings is nice, especially towards harvest time when the stalks swish in the breeze. And the strong smell of corn in the air on humid summer evenings. Thanks for posting. Take care.

Unknown said...

Im in the middle of that book now and I have had to really re think a lot of my own practices because of what I read, heck I was feeding my pigs a mix of half cracked corn because thats what the old timers around here said to do.
I think your farmer friend is making a living the best way he can, it's just unfortunate that society as a whole does not realize the detriment, only then would the demand decrease in a way that would warrant another crop although it seems soy has it's downside too.

Dandy said...

i have absolutely no clue. That's how helpful I am.

But I have to say this. Big fields like that make me nervous... mostly because I'm a freak and I've never livied near fieldws.. or masses of trees or anything. So when I can't see to the next house I get nervous. Isn't that weird?

ain't for city gals said...

I don't think my comment posted last night..I'll try again. The high fructose corn syrup is what we REALLY want to stay away from...seems like it is in everything now if you don't buy organic.....maybe the next time you see the farmer you could just tell him you are curious and ask him why. Animals, Veg and Miracles is one of my fav books...need to get it out and read it again...

Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

Corn and soy are a plague that conventional farmers cannot live without. That 90% of these two crops are genetically modified and they are often fertilized, and always sprayed with herbicides and insecticides. Growing corn year after year compacts and degredates the soil....yech! Not anything good to say. If they do spray, you should ask them to stop or leave a buffer strip around your property. Hopefully your neighbour will oblige. Good luck!

Leslie @ Farm Fresh Fun said...

Love that book! Wish it were easier for farmers to switch to other crops and still pay the bills that keep the land from becoming houses... It's really hard. Big Ag has a stranglehold. "Healthier" crops are often way more labor intensive and despite the job market finding affordable farm help is tough. People ARE becoming better educated and supportive of the need for alternatives but this economy makes it hard for many of us to put our money where our hearts are... Slowly but surely I think things will change but it WILL cost us all more. Thanks for sharing!

Laura @ Getting There said...

Seeing that corn grown year after year would make me feel unhappy, too. It's really disturbing how modern farming practices seem to have so little regard for the health and fertility of the soil.

Anonymous said...

You could try giving the farmer a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's book - who knows, he might just read it and start thinking about these things. Add a small bottle of your own maple syrup...
The Stalker