Do you consider corn to be beautiful? Like all plants, it amazes me what one small tiny sliver of nothing, a seed, can do. What kind of beauty and nourishment it becomes. The cycle of life is just amazing and the role that every little thing plays into this cycle is just incredible. For anyone outside of Indiana, the idea of a state with so much corn is just fascinating. When my friends visit from out of state, they all want a picture in front of corn.
Recently my husband and I went on a very long road trip that stretched on forever – Indianapolis to Omaha, Nebraska. It was a long drive and we told people there was nothing to look at. “Nothing to look at except a lot of corn.” they’d respond. And really no, there was literally nothing to look at. It’s true that for much of the year there are fields of corn and soybeans to look at as you drive through the state, but when the crops have not yet been planted for the year or have barely been planted, no, there’s nothing to look at.
The beauty of the farm landscape in Indiana is sort of unique, we produce a lot of corn. Ten years ago when my husband and I returned home to southern California for our wedding, my dad had planted a crop of corn along the perimeter of my childhood home. The corn was tall and over our heads, reaching for the sky, with the longstanding palm trees behind the rows of corn. Corn meets palm trees, the perfect backdrop for where my Indiana raised husband would marry me, his California raised wife.
As a newcomer to Indiana, I was and I remain fascinated by the beauty of the fields in this state. I’m not comparing the beauty of where I grew up; sandy beaches, the pacific ocean and mountains. It’s just different, it’s a scene that I wasn’t familiar with and now it’s a view I enjoy daily. On my way home from the grocery store I pass soybeans and corn, on my way home from visiting downtown I’ll drive between broccoli and wheat fields. It’s just different. Yet, the similarities are that both scenes are so important to our food supply, to sustaining life. Fish from the ocean, corn from the fields.
Recently I had a crash course in corn farming where I learned things that were like that proverbial “duh moment”. Most of the corn grown in Indiana is actually field corn and will never be consumed by humans, it’s for feeding the livestock that is also so important to Indiana agriculture and to our food supply. The corn we do buy and eat in Indiana is sweetcorn. Indiana is also one of the top two producers of popcorn — corn that is made to be popped.
The farmers and scientists at Beck’s Hybrids, a local Indiana seed company really schooled me when it comes to plants, corn specifically. There were so many things about basic plant science that I didn’t know or at least didn’t recall from my years of science and horticulture – how different hybrids of corn are developed, how things are grown in Indiana, food genetic safety, and why farmers choose to plant the types of corn that they choose to plant. I went from feeling ignorant and maybe even a little bit stupid, to feeling educated on a scientific level and on a real world level, and that was empowering.
During my day devoted to Indiana Corn, dubbed #CornTour, I visited two very different farms. I sat in the kitchen of the Campbell family and listened as they shared why they plant and grow non-GMO field corn. You know what really made me think? The script painted above the kitchen table in Jent Campbell’s kitchen, “It doesn’t matter so much what’s on the table as who’s gathered around the table.” Love that.
Later I sat in a different kitchen with the Beyer family and learned about their venture into GMO sweet corn. One of the coolest things that I experienced and have had the opportunity over the past two years is to get used to the idea that farming has a face. Farming in many cases is a family experience, a family job, a family lifestyle. When the Campbell family took us out to one of their fields, their eleven year old son gave us the tour and the education on corn planting. This is a huge part of his life. He isn’t a faceless corporation that feeds our bodies. In most cases, our food is grown by real people — by families who gather around the kitchen table together at the end of the day and eat food, just like my family.
After meeting farming families, you can’t help but think differently when you take a bite of buttery corn on the cob or enjoy a fresh green salad or drink a cold glass of milk. You start to taste the hope and dreams of people you don’t know but who are just like you. You taste the success of life despite mother nature, you taste the excitement of survival and the end of a season when there’s a tiny bit of breathing room before you have to make the next big decision. You taste the truth that we are all really feeding one another and we are all in this cycle of food and life, together.
In the end it’s all about choices when it comes to food and life — palm trees or corn fields and while they are different, one isn’t really better than the other. It may be better for a specific season or lifestyle but there’s no be all end all to life. I’m thankful for choices, choices are what brought me to cornfields and choices are what lead me back to the palm trees during different seasons of my life. Thank you for farmers and thank you for choices.
This post is sponsored by Indiana’s Family of Farmers. I was compensated to share about my day of corn but all thoughts, opinions and stories are my very own.