indian cornA symbol of harvest season, they crop up every fall— those ears of corn with multicolored kernels that adorn doors and grace centerpieces. So how does this decorative corn, known in America as flint corn or Indian corn, differ from other types of corn? How long has it been around? Also, is it grown solely to look good next to pumpkins, gourds and scarecrows in those seasonal displays, or can you actually eat it?

Corn does not grow wild anywhere in the world. Instead, this domesticated plant evolved sometime in the last 10,000 years, through human intervention, from teosinte, a form of wild Mexican grass. Originally cultivated in the Americas, corn was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the late 1400s; thanks to other explorers and traders, it soon made its way to much of the rest of the globe. In America, the early colonists learned how to cultivate it from the Indians, for whom it was a dietary staple.

Consumed by both animals and humans (by some accounts, corn is contained in 75 percent of all grocery items) , corn also is used in a wide range of non-culinary products, including ethanol, pharmaceuticals, fabrics, makeup, explosives, paper goods and paints. The United States is the planet’s top producer and exporter of corn, the majority of which is grown in the Midwest. By far, the most commonly cultivated kind of corn in America is dent corn (also called field corn), which is used primarily to feed livestock. Dent corn, which also is used in the manufacture of industrial products and processed foods, gets its name from the indentation that appears on the outside of its mature kernels, a result of the hard and soft starch contained in each kernel shrinking unequally during ripening. The kind of corn people usually eat is sweet corn, which can be cooked and chowed directly off the cob, and is also sold canned or frozen. Like dent corn, its kernels are usually yellow or white.

Flint corn, or Indian corn, is one of the oldest varieties of corn, a type that Native Americans taught the early colonists how to cultivate. Its kernels, which come in a range of colors including white, blue and red, have “hard as flint” shells, giving this type of corn its name. Flint corn kernels contain a small amount of soft starch surrounded completely by a larger amount of hard starch, which means the kernels shrink uniformly when drying and are dent-free and less prone to spoiling (and therefore ideal for autumnal décor). Despite its tough exterior, this type of corn can be consumed by livestock and humans, and is used in such dishes as hominy and polenta.

Did You Know?

  • Another type of colorful corn associated with fall, candy corn, was first sold in the 1880s by the Wunderle Candy Company of Philadelphia. Today, the tricolor treat, whose key ingredients include sugar and corn syrup, is made with a corn starch molding process and produced by a number of candy companies. All told, more than 35 million pounds of candy corn roll off the assembly lines each year.

Thanks to the History Channel for this interesting history on Indian Corn!


This is a super fun video that explains some of the reasons we need to update and upgrade our locks and dams. Did you know that the locks and dams we’re using today were built during Mark Twain’s time for paddle boats?

Today we are celebrating the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) that just passed in the House last night. It attempts to fix some of the problems but STILL doesn’t help us get the funds to build new locks and dams. In fact, this WRRDA doesn’t even include an increase in the user fee that industry all agrees to in order to get more money in the pot. This isn’t even federal money!!!


Harvest is the time of year I look forward to the most, and I think most farmers will agree. As a farmer’s daughter, I watch my dad literally work day in and day out all year round in preparation for harvest. Whether it be making repairs on equipment late at night, tearing up the fields and planting seed, spraying the crops for pests and diseases, or walking through the fields to check how the crops are progressing through the season – it all leads up to what we are here for… harvest.

It’s the time of year where a farmer can physically see if his or her hard work has paid off; where you watch the grain fill the hopper, and know you are supplying feed for livestock, food for millions of people, and many more products worldwide.

harvest image

It’s the time of year when the air smells of freshly cut fields.

combine harvest

It’s the time of year when you use a walkie-talkie radio instead of a cell phone.

harvest radio

It’s the time of year when you wear boots EVERYWHERE.

harvest boots

It’s the time of year when you don’t eat as a family at the dinner table, but instead, eat sack lunches in the field.

illinois harvest

It’s the time of year when you drink out of more water jugs than cups.

water harvest

It’s the time of year when you still see headlights out in the field at 9:00 at night.

nighttime harvest

It’s the time of year when you work together as a team and a family.

harvest auger

Harvest time holds some of my fondest memories. Despite how much everything has changed over the years, whether it be the technology, equipment, or seed, the things that I have listed of what makes harvest, harvest have always been the same. As a child, the voices of my dad and uncle talking on the radio echoed in our kitchen, and I would fall asleep to the sound of grain falling into our metal bin outside my window. The fact that these memories are still happening to this day 20 odd years later, is heartwarming… and, in a way, I relive my childhood every harvest.

family harvest

Kelsey FritscheKelsey Fritsche
Southern IL University student


Most of the corn grown in Illinois is genetically modified corn.  It’s genetically altered to withstand insect attack or to live through certain herbicide applications.  New varieties are genetically altered to perform under stressful conditions like last year’s drought.

Although this technology makes some customers skeptical, hybridization of crops has been happening for years and years.  In fact, the history of the Illinois Corn Growers Association starts before 1900 sometime when groups of farmers would come together for a fall meeting to trade their best ears of corn.  Those kernels from other parts of the state would grow and pollinate with kernels the farmer already had to continually produce the best corn – ear size, stalk quality, performance under stress were all factors when farmers selected their very best ears.

Years later, we shorten the process by choosing genes that we know are insect resistant, herbicide resistant, drought resistant and inserting them into our plants.  And some remain unsure that the research has been done to prove these foods safe.

But this recent article in Forbes magazine begs the opposite.  In fact, the author says that to believe GMO foods remain untested is to blatantly ignore the truth.

A team of Italian scientists recently summarized 1783 studies about the safety and environmental impacts of GMO foods—”a staggering number.

“The researchers couldn’t find a single credible example demonstrating that GM foods pose any harm to humans or animals. ‘The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops,’ the scientists concluded.”

So, the bottom line is here is that luckily, we live in America where (to date) everyone is allowed the choice to purchase the foods they love and feel most comfy with.  But to argue that GMO foods aren’t tested enough to prove their safety is to argue against conventionally grown crops based on fear and marketing.

I know its October – the season for sugar – but there’s just no sugar coating this.

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


October in my book, is one of the best months of the year.  And with the help of our Pinterest page, here is why:

  1. Pumpkins – This seems to be one of those things that people either love or hate.  I’m on the love side here.  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cheddar mac & cheese, the list goes on and on and on.  How could you NOT like pumpkin, it’s so versatile!  More on this tomorrow…
  2. Pumpkin farms – We are lucky to have an amazing pumpkin farm right down the road from our office and I take my daughter there every year.  Rader Family Farms is fun for all ages, it’s especially great for those families that aren’t from farm.  They get a chance to spend the day on a farm and learn a few things while having fun.
  3. Cooler Temperatures – While I love summer, it’s just not as great as fall.  When the temperature drops and you can wear jeans and a sweatshirt while sitting around a campfire – nothing beats it.
  4. smoreS’mores and Cookouts – Cooking over a campfire makes some of the best food and it’s just downright fun.  Kids can even get involved by roasting hot dogs and s’mores!  What kid doesn’t love a s’more?
  5. Soup – What goes great with lower temps?  Soup of course.  It’s not very appetizing to me to eat a blazing hot bowl of soup when it’s also blazing hot outside.  But when it’s nice and cool out?  Oh yes, bring on the soups!
  6. Fall Decorations – Indian corn, burlap, pumpkins, squash, acorns, pine cones, the list goes on of great decorations.
  7. Halloween – It doesn’t matter how old you are, get dressed up and have fun on Halloween!  Who needs a costume party?  Put on your best mummy or witch makeup and scare the neighborhood kids as they come to your front door for treats!  And I would be remiss if I left out Halloween candy here.  Eat as much as you want, it’s the one time of year that candy is fat and calorie free… right?
  8. Bow-hunterBow season – October 1st marks the beginning of bow season!  There really is no way to feel closer to nature than sitting in a tree stand as the sun rises and waiting for the perfect deer to come across your path.  Filling your freezer with enough meat to get you through the year is a nice perk as well.
  9. Piles of Leaves – Come on, do I even have to explain this one?
  10. 1Harvest – Of course, I saved the best for last…. Such a great feeling comes with harvest.  It’s the time when all of a farmer’s hard work is coming to fruition.  The sights and smells of harvest are the best of the year.

Did I leave one of your favorites off?  Tell me what you love most about October!

Becky FinfrockBecky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Ethanol. About 96 percent of all gasoline sold in the United States is blended with some percentage of ethanol. What exactly is ethanol you might ask? And why does it affect me? Let’s take a look.

corn in tankEthanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. Here in the United States, corn is the dominant grain used in the processing of ethanol. The corn-based substance is added to gasoline to reduce the amount imported by the United States.

So when you are at the gas pump and read the sticker that says, “May contain up to 10% ethanol” now you have a better understanding of what you’re buying! But you may still ask yourself why this is a big deal, so let us talk some numbers and see if I can make you more aware or even change your opinion about this corn-based gas.

10% ethanol

Since 2008, our economy has been struggling to get itself back up from a recession that can arguably be named the worst since the Great Depression. Our job market is slim to none and for those who are lucky enough to have work, they still pay a small fortune to get back and forth from their home. But, there are 204 ethanol plants in the United States that employed 383,000 people in all sectors of the economy in 2012 alone. What a deal right? And with 13.9 billion gallons of domestic ethanol production, the U.S required 485 million fewer barrels of imported oil in 2011. So not only is ethanol providing jobs to our economy it’s making us less dependent on the world for our resources.

emissionsWhat do you think now? Maybe looking at the environmental factors could be even more persuading? In recent years, there has been a profound movement in the United States to go green and protect our environment. The use of E-85, which is a concentration of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline that can be used in all flex fuel vehicles, has resulted in a reduction in greenhouse emissions of nearly 40% and exhaust volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions by 12%. Not only is it helping with our air pollution but ethanol also uses less water than gasoline during processing. 3 to 1 margin to be exact!

But many consumers argue that using ethanol in their vehicles reduces their gas mileage. Although this statement is true, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. As long as E-85 is priced at 20% cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline you will actually be close if not breaking even at the pump. When E-85 is priced at more than 20% less than regular unleaded, although you make a couple more trips to the gas station than normal, you are actually saving yourself some money. Ethanol reduced the average American household’s spending on gasoline by more than $1,200 last year. That’s your hard earned money still in your pocket.

So, when standing at the pump.. faced with the decision to choose regular gasoline or a more blended ethanol product, remember what ethanol is: An alcohol based product that reduces the amount of natural resources used to power your vehicle and keeps some extra cash in your pocket!

jason barrowJason Barrow
Illinois State University student