Quest for Corn

| 3/15/2011 10:36:27 AM

Tags: field corn, non-gmo corn, crop preparation, grain, cornmeal, Sherry Leverich Tucker,

It has become a priority of mine to grow and harvest a small stand of field corn this year. There are several issues that have made this important to me. Corn prices have gone through the roof. I raise two feeder pigs each summer. They eat a lot of grain that is predominately made with corn. We also have cattle, goats and chickens that require smaller amounts of grain containing corn. If grown economically, considering cost of seed-stock, fertilize and gas for using the tractor to cultivate, I am hoping that this can be money-saving. Using, building and maintaining a non-GMO heritage variety seed-stock is not only good practice, but will also save money for future crops. Growing good quality, nutritionally superior corn that I can grind for our own food is exciting as well. I look forward to giving hominy a try, and grinding it for cornbread and other recipes using cornmeal.

Initially I was worried about harvest. I have found out, though, that the great thing about growing corn for pigs is that they will eat and utilize the whole stalk of corn. So, harvesting for pig consumption will only consist of chopping corn stalks off at the ground and feeding directly to the pigs. No stripping ears, shucking or shelling. The only portion of the crop I will have to harvest in that manner will be that which I keep for seed, feed chickens and save for home use. Since the corn is a grain harvest and dries on the stalk in the field, there is a wide window for harvest.


The south end of our garden has been unused for several years. I have used the turn plow to turn the sod over and expose the dirt. I will now be discing it to break down the sod and get it prepared for seed. I would like to get a jump on it and get seeds of one variety in the ground mid-April and then another a month later. I am hoping if I stagger planting time then they will pollinate at different times and I can keep the varieties separated successfully.

Wish me luck on this project, I hope to be moderately successful and learn a lot!I am also excited about reclaiming this unused area of our garden.If you have had a similar project, I would appreciate any advice or suggestions.Also, a discussion about how to acquire economically priced heritage variety seed would be great! Happy gardening to you all this spring! 

4/19/2011 11:45:51 AM

I seldom use those tiny packs of seed. Instead, I go down to a local feed and seed store. In Georgia you can find both open pollinated and hybrids on sale by the pound. It's even possible to buy in bulk from some of the specialty seed companies. Locally, once you get into the 50 pound bag range, you're limited to hybrids. We used to grow corn for hogs until it was cheaper to buy it. However, that was decades ago, long before spiraling diesel and fertilizer costs. We stored the dry, unshucked, ears in a log structure called a corn crib. This was designed to keep the ears dry and to allow air circulation. We never harvested the stalks. However, we did turn livestock in on the fields to let them “glean” the corn before we cut under the crop residue with a disk harrow. Do not underestimate the damage to stored corn from insects and critters. Weevils are about as bad as squirrels and mice. Last year I lost half of my little bit of open pollinated dent due to weevils. We always lost some corn in the crib though not that much.

sherry leverich tucker
3/21/2011 6:37:44 PM

Yes, I will be using tractor cultivation. Being a busy mom with a large market garden, there could be no other way! I have had trouble locating "economically" priced heritage seed in larger than pkt or 1/4 lb sizes. At this time I know of no one personally I can acquire seed from, either. A large portion of this years crop will have to go to building my own seedstock.

chris sharpsteen
3/19/2011 11:47:07 PM

The vertical structure of organisms within the soil is important in a garden but when growing on a larger scale equipment is necessary for efficient crop production. It is hard to maintain a no-till production garden using heavy implements as cultivating between rows results in soil compaction . Sherry you will need several long rows of corn for your pigs and other animals and that means a tractor. I hope you have been able to find seed in large enough quanities, so many of the better seed companies only offer packets. A packet of corn doesn't go very far down a 150 foot row. Chris

sherry leverich tucker
3/17/2011 10:18:49 PM

I really think the only way you could get non-gmo corn is to find a grower that specifically grows it and markets it to those wanting that. Otherwise you are just going to get whatever is the hybrid crop corn being grown (and that is the way it's been for years, even before gmo). You're right, Passionflower, most feedstores sell so many different grains, and go through tons of feed, unless they were niche marketing, it's a lot to ask. Earl, thanks for the microbe book suggestion - we do no-till gardening as well, and are continually learning! And, Oregon, thank you for the seed companies you listed. I had no idea that Territorial was connected with Abundant! Good luck to you all, I am excited about warm weather and gardening!

oregon girl
3/17/2011 4:01:34 PM

OOO, you guys, I'm a bug on non-GMO seeds too. My two favorite sources are Abundant Life Seeds ( in Oregon, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( from Missouri. Both greatly pride themselves on providing only non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented seeds. Amen! You can also get a huge variety of everything from seeds (all kinds, including organic) to beneficial insects, garden supplies, flowers and live plants from Abundant's sister company, Territorial Seed Company ( Love these guys. Good luck!

earl falwell
3/17/2011 1:32:17 AM

May I suggest the book, Teaming with Microbes. It explains why discing or tilling kills soil structure and degrades the quality of crops. Older established gardens should not be disturbed except if the ground is to hard and in that case soil compaction can be delt with in a way that works with the established micro-biology. Growing your soil is the concept.

3/16/2011 10:11:46 PM

I, too, have been searching high and low for non GMO corn. I live in a small town with several feed stores, but when I inquire as to non-GMO feed corn, they look at me as though I have just stepped off of a flying saucer. One store owner told me that "Corn is corn, and what we get in is what all the farmer's grow for feed corn." At that point, it is useless to go any further into the conversation, although I have mentioned to some that they might want to watch "King Corn". Please keep us updated on your endeavors!

sherry leverich tucker
3/15/2011 8:39:29 PM

Thanks so much, I will keep you all posted on how my "quest for corn" goes!

3/15/2011 2:24:48 PM

GOOD LUCK! look forward to hearing of your progress

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