So, Where Does Your Corn Go?

corn tassles at sunset

One of the questions I get asked most when telling my farm story is “Where does your corn go?” Our corn is certified organic, so it doesn’t go to the local elevator where our neighbors deliver theirs. We have a few options, and work with buyers to find the right price and right market for our crop.

Animal Feed

One possible use for our corn is animal feed. Organically raised animals that eat ground corn must eat certified organic corn. We have shipped our corn on rail cars to California, New York, and places in between. Living in the Southwest Minnesota, we have the soils and proper weather conditions for raising pretty good corn. The animal feed market is influenced not only by livestock farmers in our area, but all over the United States.


This market may not be my mom’s favorite, but it has been a good one. Last year we sold our corn to an ethanol plant that makes consumable alcohols as a division of their business. They make regular vodka out of conventional corn, and a few times a year clean the plant and make organic alcohols with organic corn. They make vodka for a couple companies, as well as the alcohol that goes in organic vanilla extract, alcohol based cleaning supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

People Products

Typically we think of sweet corn as being the type of corn used for humans. However, there are many products on store shelves made from field corn. Corn chips, tortilla chips, corn flour, starch, and corn meal are a few examples. We have sold corn to cereal companies in the past as well. There are also many non-edible items made from corn and corn oils, but those typically are not organic products, so they wouldn’t use our crop.

We’re not that different, really

When you look at where our corn goes, it sounds pretty similar to where conventionally raised corn goes. One of the reasons so many farmers raise corn is the fact that it has many uses!  I think that’s pretty cool.

Mature Field Corn

Fun Fact Friday – Always Thinking, Always Improving

CarolynCares New Flame Weeder

The guys tell me that our new flame weeder should be finished today!  Be looking for a full blog post next week about the build, and the safety and efficiency improvements they built into the new unit.

In the meantime, you can read up on what flame weeding is by clicking here and here.

Fun Fact Friday – What’s Going on in the Corn Field?

Jonathan, Anna, and I returned from vacation late Saturday. We had only been gone for four days, but the crops had changed a lot in those four days. On Sunday afternoon, Jonathan and I took the Ranger out for a little crop tour.

We checked the sky before we left. Sunshine to the north, a few big clouds, but no rain.

Checking the sky before we went on our tour
Checking the sky before we went on our tour

We took the Polaris Ranger so we could drive through the ditches or on the edges of the fields a little easier. Ok. We took the Ranger because it’s fun!

Riding in the Ranger
Riding in the Ranger

We looked at the barley and field pea field first. Jonathan was hoping it would be ready to harvest on Monday. It was too wet, so only the edges have been combined. Next, we went to one of the corn fields that appeared in our flame weeding video.

Jonathan brought a tape measure out, so we measured a few stalks of corn. They measured 9 feet tall!

The corn is as high as an elephants eye...or 9 feet
The corn is as high as an elephants eye…or 9 feet

After we measured the height, we went looking for the baby ear. To find the ear, we looked near the base of a leaf, and near a joint in the stalk. You can see the the very top of the husks peeking out.

The baby ear, before the silks emerged
The baby ear, before the silks emerged

We peeled back the leaves to reveal the corn in its husk.

Baby corn husk
Baby corn husk

Next, we peeled back the husks to find the mini ear. You can see the silks and the tiny kernels.

Silks and tiny kernels are ready for action
Silks and tiny kernels are ready for action

Even at this early stage, you can see how many rows this cob of corn would have. There should be an even number of rows. This one had 16.

Counting the rows
Counting the rows

Even field corn tastes sweet at this stage. I prefer to eat sweet corn, though!

Scouting can make you hungry!

After our tour of the corn, we went over to one of the soybean fields. We selected a random plant, and checked it over for signs of soybean aphids, root health, and nitrogen nodules on the root system. Thankfully, all things looked really good. The soybeans are blossoming here, so we’re hoping for nice rains and moderate temperatures.

Soybean plant
Soybean plant

Our last stop was the wheat. It is a bit behind the barley & peas, so it won’t be ready to harvest for another week or two yet.

Wheat field
Wheat field

That semi dark cloud that was over the windmill? It started raining on us when we were about 1/2 mile from home. It rained just enough to get us wet, then the sun came back out. Figures!

Please check out my friend’s blogs. Dairy Carrie wrote about Corn Sex, and Brian Scott wrote about Corn Porn. Both are great at explaining how corn is pollinated. Give ’em a read, you won’t be disappointed!

After the Burn – A Follow Up to Burn Baby Burn

A few people have been asking for a follow up from my Burn Baby Burn post. Here it is!

This photo is an overview of the corn field two days after the flame weeder went through. You can see how some areas are burned a little more than others. This photo was taken while standing on the side of the road.

Two days post flaming
Two days post flaming

This photo is nine days after the flame weeder went through. It is almost in the same area as the one above, but this one was taken from the window of the van. The mosquitoes are so bad right now, I didn’t want to get out. 🙂

Nine days post flaming
Nine days post flaming

I enlisted Jonathan’s help in taking the next few photos. We were on a parts run (farmer date), so he took the photos while I walked out into the corn.  The field I’m standing in is the one we were flaming in the video (link above). It was about knee high nine days ago!

Corn has grown quite a bit in nine days!
Corn has grown quite a bit in nine days!

Here are two close ups of the corn leaves. You can see that there are still a few burned edges, but for the most part, the plants are nice and green again.

The lower leaves are singed, but the upper leaves are green
The lower leaves are singed, but the upper leaves are green
Most of the corn looks like this area...a nice deep green
Most of the corn looks like this area…a nice deep green

Last weekend, we had great corn growing weather. High temperatures, high humidity, and little wind. Some say that if you stand out in the field and listen, you can hear the corn grow on days like that. The corn is looking great. There were some broad leafed weeds that didn’t die, so our crew will be walking the fields this week to hoe those weeds out.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section!





Burn Baby Burn! Flame Weeding Video

I rode along with Jonathan while he was flame weeding the corn. If the video doesn’t answer your questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

We All Bring Something to the Table…

I have been reading a lot of agriculture themed blogs and opinion articles this weekend in between trips to Sioux Falls. Some have been quite disturbing in their polarizing views of agriculture as a whole. Basically, their way of farming or their choice of food to purchase is the only “right” way. Really?

I understand the desire to support our methods. After all, shouldn’t we all be proud of what we produce? But why the need to put down or demonize someone else’s methods?

Yes, we are organic farmers. We grow corn, soybeans, barley, wheat, oats, and field peas. The corn gets used for many things, and a good majority of the rest is raised for seed. What doesn’t get used as seed is made into livestock feed.  This method of farming works well for us, and we love what we do.

That said, we have many friends and family that raise their crops in a “conventional” or “modern” way. That works for them, and they are just as proud of what they grow as we are.  They, too, love what they do. We do not put them down because of their farming methods, and they do not put us down.

Why is it, then, that many who consider themselves mouthpieces for agriculture cannot have the same tolerances? Why must they always pit one group against another? It is troubling to me, really.

We are blessed to live at a time, and in a country, where we have many excellent choices when it comes to food. If someone chooses to buy produce from a farmer’s market, they can. If they prefer to buy their produce from the grocery store, they can. Organic, non-organic, natural, grass-fed, free-range, barn raised, corn fed, whatever you prefer. It is available for you to choose.

I look at it this way. My two sisters and I grew up learning how to cook from our mom and the same Home Economics instructors. We were taught how to make the same things, using the same methods. As we all have established our own homes, we all specialize in different courses.  My oldest sister is an excellent bread baker. We request that she brings bread items along whenever we have a family gathering. Middle sister is very creative, and finds the best salad and vegetable recipes. She is pretty fearless when it comes to trying different food pairings. We always request side dishes from her. Mom is the expert pie baker. I don’t think I have ever seen her measure the ingredients for her pie crust – and it turns out perfect every time. Her lemon meringue pie is awesome! I like to bake cookies and make lefse, especially for Christmas. I have my favorites, and take requests from family members before we all get together for the Holidays.  All of us like to prepare the main meat course, whether it is a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, or shredded pork barbecues for summer gatherings.  When you put all of our talents together, we have a complete meal.

To me, agriculture is the same way. We each have a way of farming that suits us. When we put all of the things we raise together, we have a complete agriculture “meal”.

I think it is time we stop drawing lines, and celebrate the differences we all bring to the table.

Almost time to stock up ingredients for my most requested cookie: