Winter Cornfields: A Sanctuary for Birds and Bugs!

by: EJ on 11/29/2012
Posted in: Sustainable Living

Cooking up a Story has put together two excellent videos featuring Anthony Boutard, author of Beautiful Corn: America's Original Grain from Seed to Plate.  Cooking up a Story is an on-line TV show about food and sustainability founded in 2006.  Their shows are filmed on location and the subjects speak for themselves on everything from how to can fresh sardines to the debate over creating a sustainable future.

In these two videos, Anthony Boutard speaks about his love affair with corn.  I especially loved the video about the corn field in winter because it brought back so many memories for me.  As a child, I too was entranced with corn.  I grew up in southern Ontario where the ears of colourful "Indian" corn, as we called it, struck me as something beautiful, rare and mysterious.  I was told that it was inedible but as Anthony explains, that is certainly not the case.  In the video, he says he discovered his first corn in a seed catalogue ad.  "Boy seeking corn, ad says corn makes good corn bread."  The relationship blossomed and Anthony says, "It was just the most beautiful thing I had ever seen."

I used to visit the cornfields near my home in all seasons.  In winter, we gleaned corn cobs missed by the harvester to feed to our horses.  I would ride my horses through the soft sand fields and let them pick up the cobs as we went along as special treat.  In the spring, I would wander through the small plants, looking for the places where they had germinated poorly or not at all.  These would create open, room-like spaces in the corn that made great places to play in the summer and fall.  I remember playing hide and seek in the corn - running through the rows as the rough leaves scratched my face and crouching down silently to avoid detection.  How it was easier and quicker to run down the rows and only slip across rows where a missing plant made a gap. Otherwise, you were liable to end up in a tussle with corn plant and reveal your whereabouts. When Anthony stops and asks you to listen in the video, "A Farmer and His Corn", he is right; the sound of corn is one of its essential details.

Anthony Boutard is certainly a treasure; the son of a renowned Massachusetts botanist, and educated as a forester. His bio on Cooking up a Story says, "He was raised with the rich aromas of the earth and an appreciation for the changes in the natural world that come with the turning of the seasons."  Cooking up a Story and Kathleen Bauer have done an amazing job capturing the essence of his work and depth of feeling for his topic.  I highly recommend tuning into their show and especially watching the two Anthony Boutard episodes, “A Farmer and His Corn” and “A Cornfield in Winter – a Farmer’s Reflections.”



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