It’s fall in Nebraska, and that means a lot of fun for Nebraskans! Between Halloween, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, leaves changing, and cool nights by a campfire, Nebraska is a pretty great place to be! But even more exciting is, you guessed it, Husker football games! It is quite a site to see Memorial Stadium packed to the brim with Nebraskans decked out in red shouting “Go Cornhuskers!”. Wait a second, what is a cornhusker? A cornhusker is a person or device that removes the husks from corn. Why are we called the Cornhuskers? Nebraska is one of the top corn producing states ranking third under Illinois and Iowa. Continue reading
Whether its rain, hail, or heavy winds, fall harvest has been rough in Nebraska. Tough weather can mean yield loss and reasons to look at whether losses are covered by your crop insurance.
“I don’t understand! If farmers are feeding us corn, why are they letting it die before we can eat it?”
This is a question that has maybe crossed your mind a time or two. Here in Nebraska, we like to eat corn. We like it off the cob, in our casseroles, or served on the side of a delicious summer hamburger. But who in the world would like to eat dead corn? Let me explain…As you can tell from the pictures, there is a big difference between the corn you eat (left) and the corn that you see in the field (right). Sweet corn is the kind of corn that you would buy at the grocery store in the summer and eat when you get home.
“If sweet corn is used for food.. then what is this field corn used for? And why do farmers plant it if we don’t eat it? Tell me about this field corn!”
Field corn is used to make a whole bunch of things. It is essential to our state, country, and world. Without it, we simply could not create a majority of things we use in our every day lives. Here a few of the MANY things you can find corn in…
Not only is it an important component to all of these products, but also to a multitude of others. Field corn is also used as food; for an example, corn is used as cornstarch, corn oil, and corn syrup, three very popular ingredients in food. “Wow, I had no idea that is a few reasons why we plant so much corn; I did not realize it was so essential! Tell me though, why do we have to let corn die to use it in all of these products?”In the picture above, this ear of corn is ready for harvest. There are a multitude of reasons why farmers allow it to get to this point so we can use it..
Harvest: Farmers have to wait until it all the little kernels are completely hard before they can be picked. If they were still soft, the kernels would break and result in losing all of their starch, a huge factor in creating many products.
As you can see, a large portion of the kernel is full of starch. When the kernel is still soft, all of that starch will escape the kernel as it is still in a liquid form, leaving little behind for the use of the many products we need. When the corn fully matures (yellow), then all of the liquid starch turns into a solid starch through a process called “denting”.
You can see the seed change from a milky substance into the solid starch as the corn plant matures. The last seed shown is ready for harvest!
The corn in the field is not necessarily dying, but drying. By drying out the liquid starch (milk stage), the corn can be harvested and used for all the necessities you and I need! From glue to corn flakes, cattle feed to fuel, corn (the dented field corn) is not only a complement to our society, but also a crucial source to create so many things. Without corn, a nation would simply not be born!
It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but trips back to the family farm are quite a treat. I made the rare trip last weekend. My dog, Rosco, was due for a check-up. And since I’m loyal to the family vet, we made the two and a half hour trip north. He loves those car rides. A chance to feel the breeze in his ears. And when we get there, no leash. No fence. Just free. He becomes a farm dog for the weekend. And I become a farm girl again.
It’s nearing the end of calving season on the my family’s farm. I’m always excited to find out how many “babies” Dad has had and what funny names he comes up with. Inevitably there is always a “Buster” or “Baby.” This year it’s “Bobo,” a bucket calf of a cow who didn’t want him. It was dinner time. So dad mixed up the bottle, we jumped on the 4-wheeler and were off to the pasture. I asked Dad “Which one is he?” I should have known. Bobo was licking his lips and hopping towards the 4-wheeler. He knows Dad brings him food.
After Bobo has had his fill, or at least drained the bottle, he scampers back to the herd. Dad drives me around the pasture pointing out his new calves and which cows are still due for theirs. (He’s had some of the mammas for 15 years. To him, I think they’re somewhere between pets and work.)
A little background on my family’s farm. My dad raises cattle and crops. (I will briefly explain the cattle and get into the crops another time.) Dad has the same “mama” cows he keeps year after year. Each year, they have a calf. Dad will raise those calves until a certain weight and the time is right for selling. He will evaluate the female calves, maybe keep one to become a heifer for breeding. (Heifer is a fancy term for a young, female cow who has not had a calf.) Otherwise, they’re all sold and move on in the typical life of cattle.
Now that the animals are fed, it’s time for the family to eat. My little sister and I help our mom prepare the most country of meals. T-bone steak with baked potatoes and sweet corn. (And yes. That steak was once a cow.) Now, I’ve never grilled steaks before. My husband is usually in charge of grilling at our house. But, since he didn’t make the trip, I try my hand. They came out closer to well-done than medium, but they were juicy and delicious.
Sitting at the dinner table, I realize this is the culmination of why family farms exists. People, just like my dad, all over the state, work hard to feed a hungry world. They stand in pouring rain to welcome a calf into the world. They bring a young lamb inside on a cold night. They toil in the field during a dry summer, hoping for something green. They don’t clock out at five. They don’t get vacation. And when things don’t go their way, they don’t give up.
So when you pick up that perfectly plastic-wrapped steak at the grocery store for Fourth of July weekend, don’t forget the farmer or rancher who made dinner possible.