How ya doin'? 

The Countdown to Summer is on! 

There are only 6 weeks left till our Summer Season begins on June 3rd! To celebrate the Countdown, we're sending out a little farming story each week till June finally arrives-- we can't wait to see you at the truck real soon!

We do still have openings for this Summer's share-- don't forget to reserve your spot today!  And please pass this on to friends. 

Full information and registration available at 

The quick run-down if you are new to Fresh Fork Market:  We are a weekly grocery subscription to local farms.  We call it a Farm Buying Club. Each week from June through October, our subscribers receive a fresh "grab bag" of local provisions, including fruits and vegetables, meats, cheese, eggs, grains, and more.  Omnivore, Vegetarian, and Vegan dietary plans are available and packages are either $25 per week (small) or $40 per week (large).  You pick the groceries up from one of our refrigerated box trucks at over 20 different area pickup locations.  
6 Stages of Corn Reproduction
Just what you were hoping to read about. Corn sex. 

I've been scratching my head all week trying to figure out something farm-related that takes 6 weeks. And then I realized what everyone was dying to learn about-- the reproductive stages of corn! 

Might sound a little dry, but actually corn is the most grown plant in this country. We're talking about field corn here, not sweet corn. It's used not only in agriculture as a feed for animals and a grain for cereal production, but it's also used in a wide variety of applications from the energy sector to manufacturing. 

For us at Fresh Fork, field corn is an important product for milling into cornmeal for human consumption, as well as a feed component for our non-ruminants, such as hogs, chickens, and turkeys. 
That is some fast grass.

Before we even get to the reproductive stages, first the corn has to progress through its Vegetative Stages, where it grows from a seed to a grass, with the beginning of an ear, as well as a fancy looking tassel. Now things are going to start getting a little racy. 

Buckle your seat belts, we are in R1, also known as the "the silk stage."  A little slip of silk appears from the top of the ear, and is searching for the pollen from the tassel. The tassel is essentially the male component and the ear is the female component.  Each silk strand is attached to a kernel of corn.


Silking, Blister, Milk, Dough and Dent. 

Corn Silo where the harvested silage gets stored.

These stages have some really fun names. As we mentioned, the first stage is called "the Silk Stage," or "Silking." The next two stages, "Blister" and "Milk" are when the kernels are fertilized and the embryo grows in size (becoming a blister on the cob), turns yellow, and develops a milky interior. 


During the "Dough" stage the starch inside the kernel becomes thick and paste-like. "Dent" is Stage R5, and the kernels at the tip of the cob begin to dry down and dent in. The plant still has significant moisture content in R5, but as it moves into the final stage, R6 or "Physiological Maturity," it dries and hardens. All the starches have been pulled back into the cob at this point, and the kernels are left filled sugar and develop their final coloring.  


Some of the juicy stuff gets harvested early. 

The horse-drawn Reaper-Binder, which cuts the silage corn and lays it to the side as a bundle.

Here is one of our farmers, Edward, harvesting his hybrid corn in the "Dent" stage, which he will put away as silage-- good feed for dairy cattle in the Winter.  Recently, the American Grassfed Association also recognized it as an acceptable feed for grassfed beef, even though it has some grain in it.  The concept behind silage is that the corn is cut when it is still quite moist (R5) and put into an airtight environment where anaerobic bacteria break down the cellulose and make the nutrients more available to the animals.  It's kind of like sauerkraut.   


Heirlooms, and Hybrids, non-GMOs... oh my! 

Milled corn.

Corn, like other vegetables, can be grown as an heirloom (non-pollinated), a hybrid, or GMO. The most popular option in the US is a hybrid variety, which means that the producer must buy the seed from a seed company, and that seed yields a specific corn crop that has been achieved by crossing two open-pollinated varieties. The GMOs, on the other hand, are generally engineered genetics that have ether foreign plants (non corn) or chemical traits spliced into the genetic makeup to produce higher yields, disease resistance, or resistance to specific chemicals like RoundUp.  


All of the corn used in our animal feed is certified non-GMO.  Often, this is from transitional organic farmers who must practice organic for 3 years before becoming certified. As I'm sure you can imagine, harvesting corn is some really hard work.

This it not how 99% of the corn in the US gets processed. 
The bundles are tossed onto a wagon, and taken into the barnyard. The corn is then fed into a chopper that cuts the corn plant up - cob, stalk, leaves, etc - and blows it up into the silo. When the silo is packed down tight, the top is closed and the silage ferments for a few months before it is fed as green fodder to the cattle in the winter time. 

This silage is used to feed Edward Keim's registered A2A2 guernsey herd that produces our wonderful Wholesome Valley Farm Golden Guernsey milk. 

It all comes down to the How and the Why. 
Dried corn in the crib.
Any of our corn not harvested for silage is let to go to full maturity, where it becomes quite hard and dried down. This is usually right around a killing frost in late fall. The corn is then harvested with a combine or with a corn picker, and the kernels are stripped from the cob to be used as high energy animal feed.  This is often milled with soybeans and oats and other small grains to make a diet for pork or poultry.

We want our animals to have the healthiest non-GMO diet we can afford to give them, so even though this way of farming is backbreaking, to us and to our farmers, it's the only way to go. 

You know what else is 6 weeks away? 
Our Summer Season! 
Click here to learn more & to sign up. 
Please pass this along to friends & family! 


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