Thursday, 8 October 2009

Cornmeal and an organics farm near Gisborne

Writing the recipe for Chilli Cornbread reminded me of an episode of Country Calendar about a family who produce cornmeal from their own extensive organically grown maize crops.

All Country Calendar episodes are up on the TVNZ website and can be viewed over the internet.  This is a wonderful service which I encourage you to use.  The only cost is your own internet charge.

This particular episode is entitled "New Growth" and screened on 13th June 2009.
Note that the screen can be enlarged to full size and the larger bandwidth selected which gives really good visual reproduction.

I found this episode really inspiring. Mike and Bridget Parker are a middle aged couple with three teenage children. They decided to go organic when the children were young as a healthy choice for them all and have made a very successful business of it. They farm a number of different crops of which maize is the main one. Just so we get the terminology straight: in New Zealand we more commonly refer to maize as sweet corn, or corn on the cob. And cornmeal, otherwise referred to as corn grits or polenta, is the yellow grain that is made from it along with cornflour and pop corn.

In addition to being farmers they became millers 0f their own corn when someone rang a neighboring farmer asking if anyone local produced organic cornmeal and they decided to put their hand up. Initially they had their corn milled some distance away in Waikato but a year later decided to do it themselves. Pests love to eat the grain which presents a big challenge to organics producers: ordinary commercially produced grain is allowed to be sprayed with up to sixty chemicals while it is in the mill and in storage; the official standard is that the grain must contain no more than five parts per million of what Bridget described as "really nasty stuff". The organic standard is zero.

It was a treat to see the three children - all young adults now - pitching in to help, and the footage of them sitting on the transplanting machine as it was driven up and down the field getting the sweet basil into the ground was most engaging. They were all working flat tack and very dexterously. Heartwarming too, to hear how well each member of the family spoke about the others, with emphasis on listening and co-operation. Best of all they seemed happy together and to enjoy it all.

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