CORN in everyone’s CSA boxes this week—the variety is known as “bodacious”! Some of you may wonder, why does locally grown corn cost more? You’ve probably seen it—this time of year the market is flooded with cheap corn. Much of it comes from large, far-away farms, raised on cheap land with subsidized water and transportation costs. The production of this corn relies on heavy inputs of artificial nitrogen fertilizer, much of which ends up in streams and rivers. In some cases, these large farms contaminate aquifers with nitrate pollution. Large tractors cause erosion and compaction to produce those 10/$1 ears in the supermarket. There is a loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat associated with hundred- and thousand-acre commercial corn production. We are just beginning to understand the real cost of industrialized corn.
Of all the crops we grow, corn is by far the heaviest nutrient feeder, really taking a toll on our fragile soil. It requires many loads of compost before and after planting. The sheer square footage required to grow sweet corn, which only produces two ears per plant (with only one of them full-sized and marketable) takes up a sizable portion of our limited irrigation water.
All this said, we love fresh corn as much as you do! We even love to grow it. Walking through the leafy rows, squeezing each ear for fullness, is one of the pleasures of farming. The miracle of pollination is nowhere more evident than in each individual corn silk attached to a single kernel, which, in order to swell and sweeten, must be touched by pollen grains falling from the pointed tassels above. Incredible! And the taste of a just-picked mouthful of golden sweet corn… we all know that joy. CORN. It’s what’s for dinner.
— Apprentice Rachel (excerpted from our weekly CSA subscriber email)
Photo: Leslie Newman