Ornamental Corn Grows in Illinois Too - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners Ornamental Corn Grows in Illinois Too - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners

Ornamental Corn Grows in Illinois Too

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Will County farmer John Kiefner

Will County farmer John Kiefner cuts one of his pumpkins in two, showing how its fruit is ready for pumpkin pie filling. An early October frost nipped Kiefner’s pumpkin patch, but he still had a strong crop. Photo by Mike Orso.

If you live in Chicagoland, Will County farmer John Kiefner may have grown the ornamental or so-called “Indian” corn you have hanging from your porches, fences or lamp posts. Farming has never-ending ups and downs, and this growing season proved to be another eventful one for Kiefner and other northeast Illinois farmers.

“The derecho that came through Iowa tried to flatten the Indian corn,” Kiefner says, referring to the high-wind weather system that blew through the ornamental corn he grew this year on his farm near Manhattan, Illinois. “It didn’t have the strong stalks and roots that field corn did.”

Still, Kiefner harvested his ornamental corn by hand to get it to market. He also grows field corn like many other Illinois farmers, which provides feed for poultry (chicken and turkey) and livestock (beef and pork) for the meat we eat, plus the clean-burning ethanol blended with the gasoline we use to power our vehicles.

“This is my 38th year as a farmer,” Kiefner says, taking a brief pause from harvesting pumpkins recently nipped by an early frost on his farm. “I probably spent the first 15 years trying to get bigger. I spent the last 10 years trying to get smaller and squeezing more out of every acre.”

All in all, 2020 has mostly been a better year weather-wise for Kiefner and most other Illinois farmers who grow the food we eat, fuel we use, and the other crops, like ornamental corn, that we enjoy.

Hear what challenges Kiefner and other farmers in Chicago collar counties face when transporting vehicles, and how you might help if you live in those areas, in this episode of the Partners podcast.

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