Monday, December 26, 2016
As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
For every one of you reading this, that means being in a depression, but for a generation of Americans that name was as large in their lives as other four letter words as Ford and Sear.
Funks was another Illinois company which had a multi story business as magnificent as any, in breeding hogs, chickens, grains, but the thing they were known for most was their corn.
I marvel at all the work of unknown Americans who had their crops stolen from them for a bushel price, in ignorant farmers and no one knows who these people were. I was reading an old Gurney catalogue from the turn of the century from Yankton, South Dakota which stated they had a blue and white dent corn (yes corn is not yellow in the beginning of corn) which they came across in southern Minnesota.
Gurney and sons purchased the crop and sold it. Perhaps it was just niche oriented to that area of America, but it never did achieve the results of Minnesota 13 which was the old moonshine corn in the criminal midwest of Baby Face Nelson and Ma Barker.
Funks really did not have a "corn" as everything they developed on their thousands of acres in Illinois was Funks. It was a unique corn in appearance in being shorter and fatter ears, but even though it was a huge company, the Oscar Will of Bismark North Dakota with his Pioneer would be the company which is still in production today.
Funks though disappeared, and then reappeared.
It seems now though a sort of, more than Monsanto has engulfed corporate farming in odd sounding companies have sprung up in every one is in on the game again, when from the 1960's to the 1990's there was DeKalb, Funks and Pioneer which dominated the markets.
I read a great deal of old seed catalogues as it fascinates me what types of vegetables and cereal crops appeared in America, as not all corns were the same. In the same Gurney catalogue I found an odd note in they stated they were out of King Phillip, which is a very historic corn, centered on the east coast. It was I long season, large eared, red flint corn. Some believe it was a parent of the great Bloody Butcher, which is a gorgeous corn of the most beautiful deep red which grows to the moon, and is a 105 to 120 day corn, depending on season and location.
Yes always be wary of seed companies from Iowa and Illinois in their "days to production", because a corn growing day in Iowa is worth 10 in Maine.
It is why I like looking at the catalogues as the Gurney issue from the early 1900's actually does a zonal map in telling people exactly if you live in this area, you should not grow a variety, and should attempt another variety "in small quantities".
That is what just stirs within me interest in the memory of most of your grandparents, America was a nation where corn was not yellow. Instead there was blue, white and red, along with non dent varieties of the flint types, which were the only thing which would grow in Montana and North Dakota in the extremes.
Oscar Will did great service in taking a Squaw Corn which was small ears and of various colors around 1880 AD in the year of our Lord. In reality, the Indians were incapable of understanding breeding whether it came to horses or crops. From this original Ree type corn, Mr. Will made a first offering after a few years. He would refine this corn again and finally around 1895 AD in the year of our Lord, Mr. Will announced that he could no longer improve on this corn called now Will's Dakota White.
It was now a white flint corn, of 8 inch ears. Multiple ears on the stalks, very short season, could be planted in turned over sod and produce a crop, and withstood frost and hail better than any other variety.
I laughed when I read "stalk or corn" in the Will catalogue, because I had been preaching that to TL for over a year in the new genetic corns are over 9 feet tall, produce one short ear, because they are sown like dogs hair in the fields. Oscar Will understood that too much fodder wasted nutrients and water. It was better to produce a 5 to 6 foot stalk with one to two ears.
It was the Funks, DeKalb and later Pioneer company which fixated on the yellow dent corn though, to make it into what Americans thought of as corn. Perhaps it was "sweet corn meal" and eye appeal, but other varieties were listed as sweet, and numbers of them were better in production and flavor. It simply was the breeding of a few corporate breeders, and a Cargill standard which made all the other corn disappear, and the resultant strain was a refined type of yellow dent which grew well in the corn belt and fringe areas, with other areas in the west to become relegated to only wheat ground.
The South would maintain their "whites" in the hominy trade, but what America became was a yellow dent country.
In the 1909 Funks catalogue, the brothers reveal that their 90 day Yellow Dent named Strain 76A, was as were all Funks corns, based upon Reid's Yellow Dent, a long season corn of the eastern Midwest, not prolific in the western states due to short growing seasons, and a variety to this day, which does not have acceptable stalk stability.
Funks overcame the stalk problems, but it does explain a great deal in why Funk's corn always had a characteristic look which was different from the Minnesota type based Pioneer corns of Oscar Will origin.
The Funks line was limited to three varieties in the company started in the 1820's, with the Leaming ensilage corn and the white corn of Boone County. For the corn belt, Funks did not require great varieties as their varieties were the best the region could produce. Again interestingly, the Oscar Will selections had within them the genes to carry corn to a greater region.
I remember discussing in email a certain state's seed bank, which they simply turned over to Pioneer and I was stunned in all of that genetic material hidden away in a commercial house. It is the thing for all the breeding of corn in America, that in the 1980's a near disaster occurred on millions of acres of corn ground in a disease was found. The reason this mattered was due to the fact that even in that era, most corn was cloned so the seeds were all the same. Billions of plants and each was identical to the other.
The disaster was averted by adding an older variety, but this modern agriculture is not the end all of fixing everything either.
I recall the very old seed plots still in existence as a child in varieties like Pioneer. Even being knee high to a corn plant, I can remember those fields only have 5 to 6 feet tall plants. Where breeding now has 300 bushel corn, the corns of those plots were 50 bushel varieties, as that is what corn normally will produce.
There is something strange about the old corn, as it's scent is completely different and as I walk through my plots, I smile at the insects which feed on them that I have never seen.
I can get away with a great deal of fudging things now, as the Monsanto varieties have so become poison to borers that there is not enough food around for them to survive and become a problem.
Alas some things are good things in not finding ear worms in your sweet corn, but I still prefer my old sweet corns in their leathery kernels and corn flavor to the burst of sugar milk the super sweet varieties have.
I wonder at how things change in the grande seed company of Funks disappearing, but then Oscar Will is gone. Pioneer is a corporation, and Gurneys was sold out to a consortium which owns about every seed catalogue in the Midwest from Henry Fields to whatever else, and all of them are store fronts as the raising of seeds is gone.
Five dollars a bushel bought you Funks 90 day yellow dent seed corn. 90 days in Illinois would probably bring 105 days in cold weather states, but in this Monsanto weed corn era, it is not uncommon to find 110 to 120 day corn even in the Dakotas.
I like watching "my" heritage corns. A corporate farmer put his seed in the ground 30 days before mine, and my neighbor was planting at least 2 weeks, and I became concerned as my old varieties of short season, almost caught these types.......did catch my neighbors in fact, which is not what I ever want for cross pollination.
That though was Mr. Will's Dakota and what surprised me was Johnny's of Maine in their open pollinated sweet corn actually came right after the Will's 80 day corn. That was not supposed to happen, even though Johnny's is based on an early heirloom white out of Maine.
In any event, everything is chugging along just great, except the popcorn which is later than I expected this year.
In my drought, which turned into a July monsoon of 10 inches of rain, I was looking at an Oscar Will variety which I have never found in his catalogue today in my isolation garden, as I think this is the goose which will lay the golden egg, in that corn is 7 to 9 feet tall, is starting to produce two ears, has very good stalk, no disease and it simply feels right.
The kernels were very large too, so I am going to pamper this child a bit and see what takes place, as I see what some other Will varieties come up with........one of which was a white dent named Rustler that the source had blue corn showing up in the kernels.
I am pleased some people have their production of heirloom crops, but geez louise, it is sort of hard to hide blue or yellow kernels in white corn when things do not behave as they should in the plots. Little cross pollination is sometimes good.......just takes a bit of time to breed it back out.
That is probably why Funks and other companies just went yellow, because when you screw up with all yellow dent corn of different selections, all you end up with is a farmer noticing some plants taller in his field.
Sort of like watching my neighbor's field......something is not quite right in that patch, but as long as the pollen stays out of my fields, all is wonderful, but I will not know that for a few months yet, to see how everything got sorted out.
I do not believe America is better, nor the world in plants that feed on crude oil fertilizer, taste like it or something animals do not like, with absolutely no nutrients in them, except sugar. I would that we had a world which was open pollinated corn again, in crops which acted like and tasted like they were supposed to.
This year one of my neighbor's soybean fields, smelled like corn and not beans, and when it flooded, it smelled like hog shit as it rotted. Someone has been splicing corn genetics into beans to bring their yields up apparently for those 1.3 billion chinamen, who torture their animals on that ghastly soymeal.
I much preferred American exploitation of robber baron corn barons. At least they bragged about their big warehouses and you just appreciated their bigness, even if it brought us to this Godless conglomerates now.