Tag Archives: Brian Scott

Ask A Farmer: Why do farmers leave dying corn in fields?

Today we have a guest post from Indiana farmer, blogger Brian Scott (Facebook, Twitter). Brian does a great job of explaining difficult questions about farming operations, how crops are grown, and the management decisions surrounding growing Genetically Modified crops. Brian blogs about growing corn, soybeans, and popcorn at TheFarmersLife.com.

I am always intrigued by the questions people ask about agriculture. What might seem like a silly question to me at first is really a great question from someone who has not been around a farm very much if at all. Apparently, people have been asking Agriculture Proud why farmers let their corn die in the field. I imagine this question is spurred by the idea many people believe when they drive through areas of the country, like Indiana where I farm, they are looking at endless expanses of sweet corn. This is not so.

Green corn too wet and too immature to harvestThe vast majority of corn spotted in rural America is not sweet corn. And when I say majority I mean like 99% of it is not sweet corn. Not always but more than likely the corn in question is yellow dent corn. Dent corn feeds livestock, fuels cars, and makes plastics, starches, adhesives, and a huge array of other products. Sweet corn is harvested at what would be considered very early in the season for a farmer like me. The plant is still pretty green and the kernels are of course juicy and sweet. I do not want sweet juicy corn on my farm. My corn goes through a juicy stage after pollination although the sugars are more starchy than sweet.

So why do I let the corn die?

Well to me it’s not dying it’s drying. After pollination kernels appear. Sweet corn is harvested shortly afterwards. When the kernels are formed and full of liquid it’s called the milk stage because if you squeeze a kernel the stuff that squirts out has a milky consistency. After milk, we go to dough where the kernel gets a bit more solid. Eventually we hit black layer, which signifies physiological maturity. Black layer refers to a, you guessed it, black layer at the tip of the corn kernel. So now, the corn is physiologically mature and dent corn is maybe a month further along than harvested sweet corn. Time for harvest, right? Nope.

Now we start the corn drying process.

Corn can be safely stored for long periods at 15% moisture. Black layer is around 35% moisture in the kernel. 15% is a level at which the risk for developing storage issues is very low, and it’s no coincidence grain purchasers base their pay schedules on 15% moisture. Higher than that number on corn delivered to the elevator and I have part of my pay taken to cover the elevator’s drying cost. But there’s no premium for delivering under 15% moisture. Fair enough. Not all farmers have dryers on their farms, but many do. I have one. Dryers are generally powered by propane. Our dryer actually looks like a normal grain bin, but the top section has a floor to hold wet grain to be dried in batches. A large burner fan pumps air, sometimes over 200 degrees F, to dry the corn. Traps in the floor open after a specified period of time, and another batch enters.

So if wet corn costs me money to dry, whether doing it on site or upon delivery, why not leave corn in the field until it dries all the way down to 15% moisture in the field? We tend to start harvest at just over 20% maybe up to 25% normally. We plant various maturities of corn so the drying process is spread out. Sometimes farmers can get a break on drying costs. The local ethanol planted wanted corn early in 2011. In early September, they took corn deliveries for one week while covering the drying cost up to 25%. We harvested about 40 acres near 30%, and didn’t harvest anything else until 3 weeks later. Corn starts to be ground up and damaged a bit when it’s that wet running through the combine.

We dry most of our corn ourselves because we have the capacity to store most of our own crop. During harvest, lines at the grain elevator are usually long, and I can’t keep the combine running if there isn’t an empty truck waiting on the roadside. Since corn is in greatest abundance at harvest, the price may be relatively low as well. Storing means we can hold on to grain while waiting for higher prices. Pay or pricing can be held back upon delivery to an elevator as well, but you’ll be charged a per bushel storage fee for time between delivery and sale.

Farmers leave dead corn in field to dry2013 was a wet and cool year overall except for August. Our average harvest moisture was 20% across the whole farm. If we let corn dry all the way to 15% (maybe pushing into December with 2013 weather) in the field we would likely lose more money in grain loss than what we’d pay for drying. I believe this is where the idea of dead corn comes into play. Fields full of browning plants sitting in fields for weeks as compared to green sweet corn. I want the corn to look dried up, but when the time is right, I want the corn out of the field as fast as we can harvest.

The plant is dying and drying right along with the kernels. Stalks become hard and brittle, and ears might start dropping on the ground. Once they hit the ground, my combine isn’t going to pick them up. The last thing I want to see coming at dry corn stalks is a strong windstorm. Wind is bad enough on green and growing corn so it won’t have much trouble knocking down dead corn. The ground also needs to be dry for harvest to limit the risk of soil compaction and for ease of operating equipment.

Now you will know the next time you see acres of green corn that has turned like fall leaves on trees that in the farmer’s eyes his corn is not dying but drying!


Enhanced by Zemanta

I Occupy Our Food Supply Everyday [Reblog]

Ryan Goodman:

If you’re concerned about genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the farmers that grow these crops, this post from my friend, Brian Scott, is worth the read. Today WordPress’ Freshly Pressed blog featured this post where Brian discusses his use of GM crops and how he works with the technology and Monsanto. Brian even includes a PDF of his 2011 Monsanto Agreement. Definitely worth a read if you want to learn more about GMOs from a Farmer’s point of view.

Originally posted on The Farmer's Life:

Me occupying some popcorn

Today is the day.  The Occupy movement is going to occupy the food supply.  According to the occupiers and Farm Aid president Willie Nelson large corporations have too much control over our food.  I won’t deny that there has been a lot of consolidation in the food and seed markets over the years, but that seems pretty common and big does not equal bad as some occupiers would have you think.

Willie Nelson recently wrote “Occupy the Food System” for The Huffington Post.  He ends his editorial piece by saying, “Our food system belongs in the hands of many family farmers, not under the control of a handful of corporations.”

As you may know I happen to be part of a family farm.  I’m the 4th generation to work this land.  I’ve seen a lot of posts online about how corporations control farms or farmers are…

View original 1,513 more words

My highlight of 2012: CNN Eatocracy

eatocracyThe comment that started it all:

I’m from a family farm with cattle, horses, and on occasion a few pigs, chickens for our own freezer. I’ve also worked in large cattle feedlots in different parts of the country. Farmers (both large and small) I’ve worked with all care about providing a quality life for their animals. There’s no other way around it. If someone doesn’t, we have a problem to work out. It’s our responsibility, and do the best we can with tools, technology, and respond to customer demands. Gestation crates were one of those tools for pig farmers.

Ryan Goodman AgricultureBack in June, I made a decision that would take my advocacy efforts to a new level. It was on this post from CNN Eatocracy covering the crate-debate. Many folks were discussing the use of gestation crates in pork production and I wanted to add my 2-cents just like I have on hundreds of other online news articles. This one was in the right place at the right time.

I am so thankful for CNN Editor Kat Kinsman in 2012. For whatever reasons when she read my comment, it sparked enough interest for a follow up and eventually open doors for myself and few other farmers to share our thoughts with the CNN Eatocracy audience.

That event turned into my first CNN Eatocracy post and several others.

cnn eatocracy july 2012I really don’t know how to say thank you enough other than to say it made my year to receive that opportunity to share a bit of the farming world and links to my many fellow ag bloggers with that audience. I am so thankful for the support of the many friends who have read my posts, left encouraging comments, and guided me in how to be a better advocate for my beliefs.

An even larger bit of gratitude goes out to those have increased their efforts to reach out and share their message of food production with our customers.

I hope 2013 brings better understanding and many more great opportunities for the agriculture community to reach out to customers and answer their questions about our food supply.

Be sure to catch up on the Top Posts and other highlights on my blog from 2012 on this previous post.

CNN covers impact of drought through farmers’ voices


Inside CNN
Inside CNN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Agriculture has had it rough in the eyes of the media during the past few years. With groups like PeTA and HSUS drumming up emotional topics and images with poultry and pork farming, it has been tough for farmers to get a positive voice in the conversation.

Earlier this year, ABC News really hashed the ‘pink slime’ topic to the point where hundreds of individuals lost their jobs and a safe beef product is now seen as hazardous in much of the public’s eye. Main stream media has been looking for that sensational, emotional topic, and food is the one subject that impacts every person who eats. There are a few good stories spotted around, but they’re hard to stick in the public’s mind.

We have to give props to CNN for featuring the voice of multiple farmers from across the country in recent weeks. The current drought situation is one of the worst in this country’s history, and with so few Americans depending directly on the soil for a living, it’s important that farmers are out there to remind customers of how it impacts our food supply.

Indiana Farmer, Brian Scott

Generations of Indiana farmers from the Scott Family

Last week, CNN visited Indiana farmer Brian Scott (@thefarmerslife, Facebook), whose corn crop has been whittled down in the dry weather. Brian and his dad had a few moments on Live TV and were able to share a few thoughts on how the extreme drought conditions are affecting neighboring farmers. View the live segment video here and a later segment here. Brian also wrote on his blog about the events of hosting USDA officials and tv crews on the same day.

Missouri Farmer, Chris Chinn

Missouri farmer Chris Chinn (@chrischinn, Blog) had an opinion piece on CNN earlier this week explaining how the drought has affected her family.

(CNN) - The drought of 2012 will be one that farmers and ranchers remember for years to come. My husband, Kevin, and I are fifth-generation farmers. This is the first drought we have experienced since we were married and started farming together in 1995.

Our farm, like most other U.S. farms, is really suffering right now and in desperate need of rain. The media have pegged it right: it definitely is the worst drought of our generation.

Kevin and I own and raise hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay on our farm. Typically, we don’t have a lot of crops to farm, but this year we decided to rent an extra 200 acres for that purpose, doubling our row-crop acreage. We were able to purchase crop insurance for most of our crops, but unfortunately that alone will not help make our farm or equipment payments to the bank since most of our crops are ruined.

Our crop failure isn’t what keeps me awake at night these days; it’s worrying about our animals. No crops means no feed for livestock. We can’t stop feeding cattle and hogs. We own 60 head of cattle, and our family has 1,500 sows on our farm. Bountiful crops are needed for an adequate feed supply, but so too are healthy pastures for cattle grazing. Both need rain.

Read the rest of Chris’ piece here.

My Voice on CNN’s food page, Eatocracy

Over the past few months, I have also been blessed to have made contact with the editor of CNN’s food page – Eatocracy. Kat has welcomed me for three opinion pieces, encouraging customers to connect with farmers who producer their food, and my most recent piece last week shared insight to how the drought affects my family’s cattle farm in Arkansas. View all of my pieces here.

I encourage you to thank the editors of CNN’s pages for seeking out the voice of farmers and making an effort to make connections to the farmers producing food for this country.

Opportunity for Food Dialogues

If you’re honestly looking for an opportunity to engage in dialogues with those customers already talking food, I encourage you to check out CNN’s  food page – Eatocracy. These folks are already discussing food topics, current stories, and having some fun along the way. Don’t go in looking to set the world to rights, but if you see opportunity to leave a comment and share your experience, leave a constructive comment that will lead to positive conversations on this page. OR if you’re just looking for a daily coffee conversation, there’s the daily coffee klatsch. Be sure to follow Eatocracy on Facebook and Twitter.

You may find some who aren’t as receptive as others to comments, but I guarantee you there are folks there interested in comments from the agriculture community.

Again, give props to CNN for being one of the few national media outlets regularly welcoming the agriculture community to share a voice in the public’s eye. We’re one of many minorities in this country and welcome the opportunity.

Remember to cultivate those relationships with your local media and continue sharing your story and answering questions others have about the food we eat.


Enhanced by Zemanta