A harvesting of sweet corn for community food banks brought several Ivy Tech Community College faculty and students, as well as members of Wabash Valley Master Gardeners Association, to Terre Haute’s south side Friday morning.
It’s the third year for Ivy Tech’s community harvest of sweet corn to help the food insecure in the Wabash Valley.
Ivy Tech has planted sweet corn on six acres, owned by West Minster Village, next to First Southern Baptist Church, along Davis Drive.
“We have three different corn planting sessions so it would not all come to harvest at the same time,” said David J. Will, dean of school of technology, applied science and engineering, at Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute.
“The shelf life of sweet corn is not long. It is only a couple of weeks, and that is if refrigerated. We didn’t want to harvest at one time as the local food banks, such as Catholic Charities and the Community Harvest Food Bank [of Northeastern Indiana] at Fort Wayne, which is helping us, can’t consume it all in a short time,” Will said.
The first planting of corn, hampered by heavy spring rains and cold weather, did not grow as well as hoped, Will said.
On Friday, Ivy Tech staff and students worked to harvest corn on two of the six acres, expecting to harvest 40,000 ears of sweet corn. Many students and staff used plastic bags, produced by Bemis in Terre Haute, putting at least 10 ears of corn in each bag, projecting to fill 400 bags of sweet corn. The entire field will produce 140,000 to 150,000 ears of sweet corn.
“The first year we planted about eight rows of sweet corn and the rest was feed corn,” Will said. “We then converted it all to sweet corn. The problem is you typically pick sweet corn by hand. We will still pick some by hand. However, we found a single row picker [that attaches to a farm tractor]. They don’t make those any more, so we were lucky to find one, and we can actually pick a full row of corn in about 7 to 8 minutes once we get started. We have 84 rows.”
The first couple of pickup truck loads Friday went to Master Gardeners, which is a partner with Ivy Tech’s agriculture program. The majority of the harvest Friday went to Catholic Charities. Other corn will be used by Ivy Tech to be grilled as part of an Ivy Tech Alumni gathering at the Terre Haute Rex baseball game today at Bob Warn Field.
Ivy Tech student Michael G. Fischer, 22, of North Salem, drives 1 1/2 hours twice a week to attend the agriculture program in Terre Haute. He was among students helping to harvest sweet corn.
”I am out here because I love doing it,” Fischer said of agriculture. “This why I didn’t mind coming out to help when we are not in session.”
Fischer is studying to be a advanced farming system specialist, where he will work on farming electronics. “Farming has been part of my life my whole life. My uncle farms, and I have been around him. My uncle farms about 1,000 acres in Putnam County.”
Fischer said he and other students “this past semester did a bunch of work on the (single row) picker, making sure it runs right. We replaced a bunch of bearings and changed the fluid on it. It is always nice to see your work pay off,” he said, as he watched the machine in action.
”It is a great day and such a great learning experience for our students,” said Becky Miller, Ivy Tech’s executive director of resource development. “We have learned how to better understand what it takes to support the ag community through this effort, for sure.”
John Etling, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the food bank organization “reaches out to our pantries and our soup kitchens to make sure they have the knowledge that we have this corn coming through the system and they make plans to incorporate that into their distribution efforts and (food) menus.”
”You have to keep in mind there is already a lot of corn now in the market through farmer markers and retail, but for a lot of our clients, we can make this available now as they can fill a bag at a soup kitchen facility, pick up corn at one of the food pantry distributions and mobile distributions. We have several ways that we can push this out to neighborhoods and communities where people will use it,” Etling said.
West Central Indiana has about 41,000 people who are food insecure, “so it is important to get some good, fresh produce out to them,” added Jennifer Bell, development director for Catholic Charities. Food insure means a person is lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, Bell said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.