I had the pleasure of visiting with Tom, Saskia and Fritz of the Yolo County growing project in Woodland, CA last week. Hosted by the David Presbyterian Church, Farmer Fritz and a highly motivated group of volunteers have been growing a quarter-acre of organic sweet corn on land donated by Fritz. Fritz prepared the soil and the group hand planted half the land while the other half was machine seeded. The groups has helped weed and will start harvesting this weekend. Churches throughout the county have been putting in their sweet-corn orders and I hope to get in on the action when I visit again next week, along with our guest from the India-Banka program, Dhrubaa.
What was so fascinating about my visit to the corn field last week is that it reminded me that people are people and farmers are farmers everywhere in the world you go. It is easy to pick out what is different from one culture to the next, but finding out what we share in common is an enriching and rewarding experience. Take Fritz and the sweet corn. From the photo you can see that the there are several rows of corn that are flowering and shorter than all the rest of the rows. This is the sweet-corn. The tall corn is field corn. When I asked why the sweet-corn was nestled in amongst the field corn, I was expecting to hear a wonderfully agronomic response along the lines of, “it helps the corn produce bigger ears.” Instead, I heard the same response that farmers in Central Africa give when I ask them why they plant their sweet manioc in the middle of a field of bitter manioc…to keep the thieves away.
Sweet-corn, like sweet-manioc, is an attractive crop to would-be thieves so to avoid detection, a good strategy it to hide it amongst something less attractive, like field corn (not generally consumed fresh in the US) or in between the bitter manioc (a crop that takes up to 5 days of labor to become edible). So the next time you drive past a field of grain corn, or wander along the path next to bitter manioc, remember that it might be all that is appears from the outside.
By: Angela Boss