Saturday, January 22, 2011

Anthony Boutard on Native Corn Varieties

This four minute video from our friends over at Cooking Up a Story is a delight. It features Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in Oregon, who describes to us and shows us the various kinds of native corn varieties which he grows. They include Blue Corn, Dent Corn, Cochiti Pueblo popcorn, Amish Butter popcorn, Pink Beauty popcorn, Black Aztec, Rainbow Inca, White Cap Flint, Seneca Nation flint, and Roy’s Calais Flint corn.


  1. I wish that "Cooking Up A Story" would put dates on their articles and videos. When was this video made? I ask this because I doubt very much that we are looking at corn grown in 2010 in Gaston, Oregon. An extremely cold spring and early summer meant that it was very hard for corn to mature last year.

    The Willamette Valley gets only about 2000 heat units during the summer which means that usually only the earliest varieties of corn will mature, except in the southwest parts of the region. Compare that to the corn-growing regions of the midwest (e.g. Illinois) that get about 3000.

    I would agree with Boutard that corn is easy to grow in Oregon, but in his location only early varieties will actually mature.


  2. When I decided to grow grain corn in here, our tenant looked at me gloomily and said you can't grow grain corn in western Oregon. That is the conventional wisdom. In his case, from a fifth generation valley farmer from whom I respect and have gained a lot of good advice.

    There is no doubt, for a wide range of crops in Oregon, 2010 was a tough year. Most of our table grapes were left on the vine, and many of our plums failed to set any fruit. The tale of woe is long. Commercial farmers like us live with the annual yield fluctuations.

    With respect to grain corn, we had an excellent harvest in 2010. The popcorn and flint varieties yielded well, albeit late. Unlike many valley growers and gardeners, I plant my corn later than many growers, during the first two weeks in June. That way the seedlings don't languish in the cold soil. People who planted during the warm spell in May had a grim time of it.

    Rebecca shot the video in the spring of 2009, and we actually had lower yields that year. All of the grain varieties shown in the video were grown and ripened at Ayers Creek in 2008 and 2009. We always grow a couple of experimental varieties, some work and some don't.

    We have been growing grain corn here commercially for eight seasons, and we have harvested a crop every year. As with any other crop, variety selection is important. As I noted, corn has amazing diversity and there are landraces that produce grain at high elevations in the Alps, and even on the Gaspé Peninsula at 50th parallel.

    I would also add that the degree day is a gross simplification for estimating ripening times. It is based on air temperatures not leaf temperatures or soil temperatures. Ultimately, the best way to judge a variety's suitability is to grow a patch and see if it works.

    Anthony Boutard
    Ayers Creek Farm

  3. Anthony,
    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience here. Would love to have you stop by and comment more often, too! ;-)

  4. Yes, I too am glad to hear about your specific experiences. If you aren't planting until June, it is particularly important to be growing the right varieties.


  5. Great work! Which measures does he take not to cross one variety with another and specially to avoid transgenic contamination?