November 17, 2008

All About the Corn

Guess what time it is in Iowa??? Harvest of corn is well under way. I think it's a beautiful thing to watch. I get this "all is right with the world" feeling seeing all that corn pile up and the sculpted look of the harvested field. There's such a rhythm to it all.

Chasing the rain with a combine, just up the road from us.

Piling up the excess in Northewest Iowa, near DD's college.

One of several grain elevators in our town.

Harvesting soybeans, just back of our property.

We love the beautiful patterns of a newly harvested field.

Somehow I often forget that I have relatives who live in Iowa who know a lot about farming! I forget to tap these resources when it comes to learning about things like the corn ears I blogged about in "The View from Here". My guess that the farmers had begun testing for readiness may be correct, but there's another aspect that is very interesting too. An Uncle J of mine down in SE Iowa tells me that these are test rows and the ears have been exposed in order to show them off so that farmers might be enticed to grow that variety next season. My cousin is working at a grain elevator and part of her job is testing the moisture content of grain for the farmers, sometimes testing the small samples they bring in before they've harvested their crop to see if it's the right time to go, or a sample from a load of grain that's going out for sale. A friend of mine in town has kept me up to date this year on the timing of harvesting her husband's corn crop and it involves so many factors - humidity, temperature, mud, frost and freeze dates, and market rates to name some.

Chatting with these folks and listening to the radio farm reports has opened our eyes to the amazing amount of science and economics involved in each harvest! Most recently I heard the disheartening report that because of our current economic melt-down, the selling price of these harvested crops dropped well below what had been anticipated. That's hard news, however, the glitch for the farmer who rents the land they farm is tougher still, since the rent they pay to the owners of the fields is often fixed, and not based on the actual profit made. "Cash Rents" is the name of these rental agreements and it's part of this very risky way of life. I may not have a completely accurate understanding of all of this, but it's not hard to understand that there is really no such thing as a "simple" farmer - there's a lot of sophisticated business going on out here!

Well, this is all then.

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