A couple of months ago, I had a call from a British TV producer, looking for a farmer she could interview about sweet corn. After asking some additional questions, I found out the producer wanted to talk to a ‘large scale’ sweet corn farmer, and visit him or her during harvest in October or November to pick up footage of him or her taking corn out, then visit a plant to watch it canned.
A couple of problems with this:
- Sweet corn production isn’t exactly large scale here in Illinois; and
- Sweet corn is harvested in July and August. By October or November, sweet corn is long gone.
I realized the producer was confused about corn production here in Illinois and explained to her that the corn she’s seen in footage is actually field corn used for animal feed and ethanol, and sometimes, food production in the form of packaged foods. Field corn is taken out in October or November, sometimes even September if the weather cooperates, and is hauled back to the farm or the elevator to be sold, not to a plant to be canned for human consumption.
I explained to her that field corn is left until mid- to late-fall so it can dry in the field and is then harvested by combine. The combine picks the corn, stalk and all, then separates the stalk from the ear, and the corn kernels from the cob, right there in the field.
She was amazed and thought they may be interested in covering that, too, but would let me know later for sure.
I hung up the phone and smiled a little at the misconception, and then spent my day toying with a British accent in my head because, obviously, I would sound better as a British version of myself.
But then I realized, she might not be the only one who doesn’t realize there’s a difference between sweet corn and field corn. And she might not be the only one who didn’t realize that all of the picking and shucking and everything else happens right there in the field.
Did you know that? No? Well, then check out this video from HowStuffWorks. It does an excellent job of explaining how a combine works and how much ground can be harvested using a modern combine.
The only caveat to this video is that it’s a couple of years old. Near the end, the announcer mentions that corn prices are near record highs, however, that isn’t the case this year. In fact, corn prices have dipped pretty significantly, causing many farmers to put a hold on purchases like combines and other machinery.
Want more information on harvest, how farmers make decisions, what corn is used for or anything else? Let me know if the comments. I would be happy to answer any questions I can — or find a farmer to answer your questions! You can also follow the #harvest15 hashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to find real-time pictures and information from farmers themselves!