Farm Fresh Answers

Cultivating conversations about food & farming

Tag: corn (page 2 of 2)

A Harvest of A Different Color

Some of central Illinois farmer Dan Crider’s corn fields are not like the others, but you probably would not be able to detect the difference unless you peeked under the husks.

For more than 25 years, the Crider family has grown food grade white corn used to make tortillas and tortilla chips on about one-fourth to one-third of their farm.

“The first year we grew white corn, I said ‘It looks like we’re harvesting snow’,” says Anne Crider, Dan’s wife.

IMG_5766Throughout the growing season, white corn plants look pretty much the same as the more typical yellow varieties, but at harvest time a truckload of white kernels stands out in contrast to the more typical golden colored grain.

Dan’s sons Jason, 31, and Chris, 26, both hold full-time jobs off the farm currently, but make time to help their dad, especially during harvest.

The white corn is stored in a grain bin on the Crider farm until it is time to deliver it to The Anderson’s in Mansfield, a grain elevator that specializes in food grade corn.

“Food grade corn must meet standards for moisture, higher test weight and a low percentage of cracked or broken kernels. We also inspect for insect or rodent damage and test for mycotoxins,” says Leo Andruczyk, Regional Food Manager with The Anderson’s.  Mycotoxins are types of harmful mold caused by fungi that can sometimes be found in grain.

“Being food grade is fairly rigid,” Andruczyk says. “Anything that doesn’t meet the standards is rejected.” IMG_5741

Conditions throughout the growing season like rainfall and temperature determine yield, so farmers do not know how exactly how many bushels they have until harvest time.

To fill his contract for a specific number of bushels of white corn, Dan decides how many acres to plant based on estimates, experience from previous years and the type of seed selected.

“The elevator provides us a list of approved seed varieties [for food grade white corn] to choose from,” Chis says. “We purchase the seed and plant one of those varieties.”

The production costs for white corn are similar to yellow corn and growing it uses the same machinery.

“White corn used to have lower yields, but not really anymore.” Dan says. “Some years the white corn out yields the yellow and some years it’s the other way around.”

To see a corn comparison and see more of the story, click here to check out the complete article from McLean County Farm Bureau.

Can’t Take the Farm Out of the Girl

If you would have told me my senior year of high school I would be farming with my dad six years later, I would have laughed at you and told you not a chance.  At that time, I thought I wanted to be some big wig executive in the Chicago area.

I went for that dream and upon graduating the University of Illinois with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real estate moved to Arlington Heights to become a Commercial Real Estate Credit Analyst for a bank up there.  Let’s just say you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl and I moved back to Central Illinois in a year.

It was a very difficult year for me and it didn’t take me long to realize it was the farm I was missing and nothing else.  I was blessed to obtain a position at a bank in Bloomington, Ill. after returning home.

At that point I realized farming was in my blood and I was right where I wanted to be. Dad and I have been working together ever since.  Weekends are spent side by side with my father and typically you will find me under a piece of machinery covered in dirt, oil and/or grease.  Both he and I, the 5th and 6th generations of our family farm, work full time jobs in addition to our grain farm operation.

Some say farming isn’t a girl’s world, but for me it is and I know several other farm girls ready to prove those words wrong.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anything and I am beyond blessed to be a farm girl from Central Illinois.

Check out photos from Harvest 2015 on the Huffman Farm.

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Farm Fresh Podcast: Soggy Summer, Dry Fall

Empty fields all around central Illinois indicate the 2015 harvest season is coming to a close. Excess rain in June caused concern early in the growing season, but did it make a big dent in corn or soybean yields?

WJBC host Terry James catches up with McLean County grain farmer, Gerald Thompson to find out how the soggy summer and dry fall factored into  the end results for this year’s harvest on the Farm to Table segment episode 11.4.15.

Catch the “Farm to Table” segment every Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. on WJBC Radio.

Traditions & Technology

Combine, Farmers, Corn

My dad,  my brothers & I with our 400-horse power combine in 2006. Technology changed a lot during my father’s farming career, but the traditions he passed down to us continue. Traditions like taking care of the land so it can take care of you – a legacy I plan to pass on to the next generation.

We wrapped up harvest this week and as I watched the equipment make its final rounds through our fields, I could still see  my father sitting in the cab, even though it’s been 10 years since his last tour of duty running the combine. This September marked the sixth anniversary of my father’s passing as well as the sixth birthday of my  oldest grandchild.

My father never took much, if anything, for granted. He loved good food, a “good read”, the Chicago Bulls (Jordan Era) and he loved people. He also loved to farm and appreciated the technology that went with it.

Pulled out of school at 13 (during The Great Depression), his farming life began holding the reins behind a few horses (the four-legged kind) and ended 75 years later in an air conditioned cab, on top of four hundred horses (diesel) that used satellites orbiting the earth  to guide it through the field. I could elaborate at length on how much he appreciated the advances in technology in his farming career, but just suffice it to say, “a bunch”!

He suffered through allergies (ragweed was the worst), long hours (never heard him complain much), and some daunting curve balls that “Mother Nature” threw his way.  Embracing changes and advances in technology, helped alleviate his allergies, shorten his hours and  helped him get a few hits off of some of the nasty pitches thrown his way. Thanks to the inventiveness of others (and some of his own), he provided for his family, made time to spend with his family, and left us a farm that was in better shape than when he acquired it.

As I mentioned, my father didn’t take much for granted, including leaving the world a better place than when he entered it. I believe he truly was and is representative of the American farmer today. The conservation practices and farming traditions that farm families carry on today are because of the legacy of those who came before us  and continue to touch us today!

I miss him!

Olson, horse cart, circa 1950

My dad started his farming career behind two horses (the four-legged kind). Here he is with the reins and my two older siblings circa 1950.

The Friday Five: Harvest

2013 soybeans, landscape

As you may have noticed by the waves of amber grain disappearing from farm fields, corn and soybean harvest is rolling in full force. For farmers, harvest brings the culmination of a full year’s worth of work and then some in planning, selecting, planting & caring for their crops.

For this week’s Friday Five, I though maybe we should take a look at five things harvest means on the farm:

  1. Long hours & hard work! Harvest is a time-sensitive task and when it’s time to go, farmers are usually in the fields from sun-up to sundown or longer as long as a) the weather’s fit b) the crop conditions are right and c) the equipment cooperates.  If you have friends or family who farm, you may notice they completely disappear from social events for a couple of months in the fall, as described by this chart from Illinois Corn Growers.
  2. Meals in the Fields:  Farmers may not stop for lunch or dinner during harvest (see above), so meals are often delivered to the fields. Take a look at some creative and delicious ways farm families stay fed during harvest with ‘How to Feed a Farmer’ posted on the Watch Us Grow blog and ‘Field Meals to Go’ from Katie Pratt’s Rural Route 2 Blog.
  3. Technology & equipment: Today’s family farmers harvest data, not just crops. Sophisticated computer and GPS technology give farmers a wealth of information to make decisions and adjustments for next year. Take a closer look  inside a combine with these photos from the blog Daddy’s tractor and get a glimpse of the bits and bytes of precision farm data  in this article from Business Insider. Or if you want to watch harvest in real time, check out this opportunity to watch it on Periscope!
  4. Danger: Farming is a dangerous occupation and harvest carries many hazards. Big machinery with lots of moving parts, dry corn stalks that can catch fire from a spark and even fatigue from the long hours can lead to accidents. Do your part to help keep farmers (and yourself) safe! Slow down & pass with caution when you meet equipment on the road. Check out this advice from blogger Celeste Harned for more tips to stay safe.
  5. Helping Hands: Farmers are a close-knit community.  Every year I see at least one story about farmers coming together to harvest crops for a neighbor in need. This week I saw three: One right here in McLean County, one near Champaign and another over by  Galva, Illinois.

To see more, search & follow #harvest15 on Facebook or Twitter.

What does harvest mean to you?

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