Where Does My Harvest Go?

On our farm we grow corn, soybeans, popcorn, and wheat.  More specifically #2 yellow dent corn, waxy corn, commercial soybeans, soybeans for seed (for two different seed companies), popcorn, and wheat.

Let’s start with the regular dent corn.  You’ll notice I didn’t say sweet corn.  None of the corn we grow (except popcorn) ends up on your plate as corn on the cob or canned corn, but it does have a lot of other uses.  Most of our dent corn ends up at two facilities run by The Andersons.  One facility takes corn, beans, and wheat, and the other is for ethanol production.  All of our wheat ends up at the first facility.  Mostly because it’s close by, and we don’t grow much wheat so we aren’t interested in storing it.

The rest of our corn is waxy corn.  All of our waxy comes from Pioneer.  Waxy corn goes through the wet milling process which extracts the starches.  Corn oil and corn sweeteners are also produced.  All of our waxy corn goes to Tate & Lyle.  If you’ve used SPLENDA, you’re familiar with one product of the wet milling industry.

I mentioned earlier that many of our soybeans go to The Andersons.  We also deliver beans to Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).  They use soybeans for a variety of purposes including feed for livestock and fish.  The rest of our soybeans are grown as seed for future crops.  We grow the seed for two different companies.  When harvesting and transporting seed we have to be sure our equipment and trailers are cleaned out so that the seed being delivered is as pure as possible.  This process actually starts at planting time.  When it’s time to plant beans for seed we make sure the planter is cleaned of any other varieties of seed so we know there’s not even a little bit in the seed field.

Finally we have popcorn.  If you’ve purchase microwave popcorn at Wal-Mart, then there’s a chance you’ve eaten something that we’ve grown.  All our popcorn is grown for Pop Weaver.  If you click on the link you’ll see they have a really great website that tells you all about their products.  Be sure to look at the FAQ and you’ll find our popcorn is gluten free, GMO-free, Kosher, contains no partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats, and is whole grain!

Have you heard of The Popinator from Popcorn, Indiana?  A while back I spotted a bag of pre-popped popcorn in the grocery named Popcorn, Indiana.  I thought this could be another avenue for us to sell into a niche market.  When I flipped the bag over I saw that Popcorn, Indiana was based out of New Jersery.  Later, at a Pop Weaver grower meeting, I found out that Weaver supplies Popcorn Indiana the majority of it’s kernels.  So I was growing for them without even knowing it!

Leave a comment below or even ask question and I’ll answer as best I can!

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  1. This was really interesting! I’m a ranch girl myself who never paid too much attention to the crop end of our operation. That is, until I got a job doing crop insurance this summer. Big eye-opener to everything that goes into growing a crop. Thanks for the lesson, you explain complex things in a very simple manner!


  2. Hello Sir.
    I work in the animal nutrition sector, currently @ a agway in Exeter, Rhode Island. Formerly of Flemings Feed in Preston, CT & Cargill animal nutrition, until The mills demise in 2007.
    First, Thank you for being a GMO farmer. — My first Question is how will this years weather affect corn farming in the future(meaning, do you think we as a country should be planting security crops. &, or do you feel that corn farming would benefit from being more spread out through the various climate regions of our beautiful(hungry-bellied*) country? — This year the country planted the biggest corn crop since 1944, and the weather bust already raised 50# whole corn up $2.00 ($15.54/50lbs)a bag here in Lil Rhody. We currently get our corn from Cargill, in Albany, NY. My Second question is what as a country, Should we invest more the Department of Agriculture(as in, farm subsidies, Agricultural education, 4H, FFA? ). Thank you so much for your time. Keep on plowing.


    1. I think we are going to learn a lot this year about what varities hold up best under these extreme conditions. I seeing major differences in soil types this year as I watch the yield monitor in the combine cab. The changes in yield are very dramatic this year since we haven’t had water. I’m going through elevation changes where I get 250+ bushels of corn at one end of the field all the way to nothing at the other end. So if we pay attention to what is happening we can learn a lot about our own farms and adjust seeding and fertilizer rates accordingly. But we also must remember this may be a pattern of weather that occurs only a couple times in a farmer’s career. We shouldn’t change the big picture base soley on this year alone.

      As far as ag spending I’d like to see less gov’t spending just in general. Less dollars used more effectively. Although ag spending is a relatively small portion of federal spending (especially if you take into account 80% of the Farm Bill isn’t farm spending) I think it’s time for farmers to accept and even ask for a little less than we’ve been given in the past.

  3. Is it true that variety of corn is being replaced by certain seeds that are more productive in all types of temperatures and soils. Can you still buy heritage seeds for sweet corn? Are we losing good soil because of flood,drought,fire and pollution. How can we safe guard soils? Is soil safe that we buy from Big Box stores? Can it be tested before I start my own backyard garden? What do you look for in soil before planting a crop? I know that farming is hard work, but seeing things grow, selling them to keep people and livestock healthy must have its rewards. What does it cost to plant one apple tree, maintain its health, hire some one to pick apples and get it to market for a fair price? How long is your day? How hard is the bookkeeping?

    1. That’s a lot of questions. Let’s see what I can help you with. Seed companies are always searching for varieties that do better in particular conditions. There are so many variables to consider. Some plants do better on certain soil types. Some are more resistant to specific diseases than others. It’s all about putting the right seed on the right piece of ground. Test plots are very common tools used to determined which hybrids do best in a particular situation.

      I’m not a sweet corn grower, but I’m sure you can buy heritage or heirloom seeds.

      There are many ways we can protect soil. Changes in tillage practices have gone a long way towards keeping soil in place. This is partly why we aren’t experiencing another Dust Bowl with the current drought like we did in the 1930s. We aren’t doing nearly as much “clean till” as we used to. By clean I mean working the ground until all the previous crop residue is buried. Many farmers are doing minimum or reduced tillage now. This leaves some residue on the soil surface which helps water infiltrate the soil instead of running over the top during a heavy rain. No till is popular especially as you head into the plains states, but it is gaining in popularity in the Midwest where I farm. We do some no till, and I would like to do much more even to the point of not doing any tillage on our entire farm. This year we are trying cover crops for the first time. A cover crop grows after harvest until the first hard freeze or until you kill it off prior to planting. Different covers have different uses. The main goals are to build soil organic matter (which improves nearly every soil attribute), reduce erosion, improve soil structure, and capture nutrients.

      I think most of the soil you buy at retail stores in good topsoil. I can’t say what’s been done to it other than being bagged. It will come with some weed seed in it. I used to work at a store and we sold thousands of bags of top soil each year. I had my employees go outside and pull weeds growing through the bags on a regular basis. You can buy soil test kits for fertility and pH levels and should be able to find them at the store that sold the soil. If there is a particular safety concern you could either call the vendor or find a lab that tests soil.

      Each year before we plant we want to be sure the soil temperature is high enough for germination. Above 50F. You don’t want to have seed sitting in cold soil, especially moist soil, if it’s cold because it could spoil in the ground.

      I have to ask a friend of mine about apples. Most of the year I work 8-5, but during planting and harvest I might work 10-15 hour days. I don’t mind that at all because I love being in the field. All I can say about bookwork is that it’s necessary! 😉

  4. I thought that most of our large capacity crops today were sold and processed overseas and then sold back to us at rediculous prices. the only way to get fresh open ground crops is grow it yourself of find a small farm on the edge of town and buy from them directly. I would never buy something like corn on the cob or tomatoes from walmart…only from local small farm stands

    1. We export crops if there’s demand. Like many other things in economics China is a big player in commodities and that is a good thing for a corn and soybean grower like myself. In fact, they are becoming a huge market for popcorn which I grow as well. To your point much of what American farms produce is used here at home too.

    1. We take precautions at harvest, but not planting. Near the road we’ll cut high to avoid picking up a glass bottle or other trash. If there is an adjacent corn field and the neighbor or we planted on top of each other a bit we’ll leave a couple rows of popcorn standing. They don’t want to find any corn in your popcorn deliveries and certainly no glass. Glass will get your truck headed home pretty quick. I need to check for sure with Weaver on the varieties they have us grow, but I know some popcorn is dent sterile so there are no worries about pollination.

      1. That’s super interesting! When I planted corn for research, we had border rows too, so that makes sense to me. Sounds like litter is more of a problem than cross pollination. I think you are right that some popcorn won’t get pollinated by dent corn but I don’t recall the mechanism. Would be cool to learn more.

    1. Lafayette North plant. Hoosier Heartland will be nice to avoid all the hills on old 25 between Lafayette and Delphi. Especially when you get behind people who want to drive 45mph. You can hardly get far enough behind them to make a run at the hills loaded. That or we need bigger motors.

  5. What a great breakdown Brian. You explained it in an easy to understand way. I had actually planed on doing a post like this. I guess it is different for every farm.

    Are you going to make any changes as to where your crops go for 2013?

    1. Not planning any changes on where they go, but changes in the amount of each crop. Waxy corn has a really good premium this year so we decided to turn over some dent corn acres to waxy. We still try to maintain a 50/50 rotation.

      Up until a few years ago we used to take waxy to Indianapolis and near Chicago. Our trucks don’t get near the miles put on them since we stopped doing that. That was a couple hour trip one way to both places.

    1. Well we aren’t making any money doing it at the moment, but planting double crop soybeans after wheat can make those acres our most profitable even with a loss on the wheat assuming the beans do okay. A lot of people grow at least a little bit around here. Some do it for a place to put manure from hog barns in the summer. It’s also a way for some to install drainage in fields when there’s more time and better weather to get it done. Not sure what ours will make this year as we had some rust issues and have been light on rain. 5 year average is about 80bu. Two years ago we made 101.

      1. I’m assuming it’s winter wheat? What varieties do you plant? What we call continuous crop is lucky to make 40-60 here. Wheat following soybeans or sunflowers 20-30. Those yields are looking like they could be better this year. We mainly plant it for the residue. We need that residue in our no-till system. Our wheat is harvested with a stripper header. We’ve been experimenting with spring barley for a cash crop that gives us residue like wheat also.

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