2012 Crop Report November 09 2012
Dear Friends of the Rocky Mountain Corn Project and the Great Light of Freedom,
I want to thank all of you who are participating in the Rocky Mountain Corn Project. You are striking a blow for freedom wherever you are by taking action to establish your independence from Big Ag and the beast of totalitarianism in all of its myriad guises. 2012 has been a year of extremes for the growing season here in the mountains of Montana—“the best of times and the worst of times,” if you will.
On the one hand we experienced a spectacular failure in our attempt to increase our area under cultivation, but on the other hand we achieved a break-through in developing a unique Painted Mountain corn strain suited to our particular micro-climate. 2012 was not the year to experiment with dry-land farming. Earlier in the spring we entered into a share-cropping agreement with a congenial organic farmer. He lives across the mountains in a large valley that usually receives 75% more natural precipitation than our home valley which is in the rain-shadow of a large mountain range.
With great expectations, we started to work a two acre field that had deep and fertile topsoil. The field had lain fallow the previous year and was surrounded by an eight foot deer fence. We had a perfect set-up for a dry-land experiment. Here in the Northern Rockies most rainfall occurs in the spring yielding the high-quality grain and grass that Montana is famous for. Some of our neighbors are descendants of 19th century ranchers who drove longhorn cattle from Texas to Montana for the luxurious buffalo grass. Well, this was not a normal year for rainfall.
We planted earlier than usual, in the third week of May, with ample rain and snow. The crop came up quickly with a great show of green. Since the field was located about an hour’s drive away, after planting we only inspected and worked the field once a week. As the weather warmed up in June we began to notice fresh gopher sign and started scouting local farm supply stores for traps. In just one week, the latent gopher colony metastasized and devoured 60% of our corn sprouts before we could deploy enough traps and shotgun patrols to reduce their numbers.
The sun then came out and no significant rain fell for the next three months. We hurriedly put up some emergency overhead sprinklers, but it was too little, too late. There was not enough available irrigation water. We decided to cut our losses and wrote off the whole field to the abnormal drought.
We retreated back across the mountains to focus on our original, small, irrigated plots that yielded some surprising results. We used overhead, oscillating sprinklers, mounted on tripods, with digital timers that came on at midnight and watered through the wee hours of the morning. We got a tremendous growth of weeds, mainly a huge, fast-growing variety of wild amaranth that threatened to choke out the corn in the early stages. It took continuous and heroic effort to chop back those weeds. Finally the corn came on fast and outgrew the weeds and we let it go. The tall weeds and corn were too thick at that point to intervene.
Come September we cut off the water to hopefully allow the corn to dry in the field. We also had our usual frost in early September. In October the corn was beginning to dry on the stalk when the birds discovered the crop. We procrastinated a few days until the birds began to strip out some huge ears. We decided to harvest early, shuck the corn in the field, and transport it to the corn crib for further drying.
As we started pulling the shucks, we discovered the largest, most magnificent ears we have every grown. Some specimens were 18 inches long with 14 rows of kernels—spectacular results for a variety that typically yielded 6-8 inch ears just a few years ago. The ears were not only huge, they were rich with minerals and nutrients with outstanding flavor and taste. We attribute our success to certain environmental factors and natural selection techniques that enhanced the genetic qualities we were looking for.
We developed particular planting and watering regimes and used highly mineralized soil amendments full of trace elements rather than focusing just on NPK. We increased plant uptake of inorganic minerals by applying a natural formula which contains a species of Archaea, an ancient living organism which feeds off of inorganic materials, converting minerals into forms that plants can absorb.
We followed a process that farmers have practiced for millenia- saving the seed each year from the best ears that exhibit the qualities we valued. Originally, we started with commercial seed from a large seed company. We are grateful for that seed but it always exhibited certain anomalies in perhaps 10-15% of the ears. Now, we have significantly reduced the percentage of anomalies with our own painstakenly developed protocols and produced a variety that is optimized for our unique growing conditions.
Even though we ended up with a smaller crop this year, we have decided to offer this select version of Painted Mountain Corn to our larger constituency in the hope of improving the Rocky Mountain Seed Project. We are saving the very best ears for next year’s seed while the smaller and more anomalous ears find their way onto our family’s table for our personal consumption. I ask you to try this process in your quest for food independence and personal self-reliance. Share your surplus seed each year with your trusted friends and neighbors.
We are offering a small quantity of this exceptional seed to you. We hope that it will jump-start the development of your own variety that is optimal to your specific location.
We are in the process of writing planting guides that reveal the tips and techniques that allowed us to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and extend their work to this particular endeavor. We hope to have these special reports available to you this winter.
For the first time, to address the growing concerns of Fukushima fallout contamination of field crops in North America, we have purchased the required sensitive equipment to do an initial field screening for the presence of alpha, beta and gamma radionuclide emitters. So far the seed has tested negative.
We are happy to provide this service to ensure that you receive the best possible fallout-free seed going forward into what may be a continuation of Dickens’ famous opening line of A Tale of Two Cities, a story of the French Revolution.
I suspect that we may not be finished with his observations on the human condition.
to be continued…
With kind regards and best wishes in your personal preparations,