The word “corn” is used scientifically to indicate a region’s leading cereal crop – wheat in England, for example. In the United States, where the Not A Cornfield project is based, corn is synonymous with maize. When reading the following text, please be aware that U.S. corn nomenclature is utilized.
Originally, corn hales from Central America, in what is now Mexico and/or Guatemala. The plant was brought from North America to Europe and beyond by outside explorers such as Christopher Columbus. Modern corn is believed to be a hybrid, partially descendant from a wild grass called teosinte. Primitive corn fossils may date back 80,000 years. At minimum, corn has been around for 7,000 years old.
Corn has been such a historically vital foodstuff – as well as source of other products – that a trove of folklore surrounds this particular flora. For example, according to Mayan mythology, humans were created from maize. This followed failed previous attempts by gods to first create people via first mud, and via wood.
In the contemporary United States, corn cultivation is most often associated with the Midwest, or more specifically and aptly, the “Corn Belt.” Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska are among the leading corn producers.
Nationwide, for at least 49 consecutive years, corn has been the U.S.’ leading field crop, both by volume and by value, according to the National Corn Growers Association. The NCGA says that more than 3,500 products – edible and otherwise – are made from corn. As an example, following the Not A Cornfield harvest, the resulting corn will be dried out and converted into biodegradable containers. Only a tiny portion, perhaps 1%, of U.S. corn is of the “sweet” – or most popularly edible – variety.
The Not A Cornfield project features 875,000 seeds of multicolor "Indian" or "Feed" corn. Those seeds were planted mostly by machine, along 82.5 miles of furrows over 25 of the 32-acre site. The corn is irrigated by drip tape placed atop these furrows; each seed has the potential to produce two ears, for a possible grand total of 1,750,000 ears.
In the project's "eye," or spiral, spiritual epicenter, Hopi Red and Hopi Blue corn varieties were hand-planted during Sunday afternoon communal events and ceremonies. The corn co-mingles here with beans and squash, the symbiotic "Three Sisters" of Native American agriculture.
Not A Cornfield’s seeds were purchased from Corona Seeds Worldwide in Camarillo, California, and tended by farmer Steve Adler (machine-planted area), gardener Jaime Lopez (hand-planted), along with a host of other Not A Cornfield team and community members.
For a pair of Internet peeks at growing corn, please visit the Iowa Farmer Today CornCam 2005, and the Not A Cornfield live webcam.