Local farmers, UNH work to provide fresh corn

Our first monthly article in the Feast section of the Nashua Telegraph, written by Lynn Post.

One of the finest pleasures of the summer is driving to a local farm stand to pick up fresh corn. There’s nothing like farm-fresh corn picked early in the morning and then eaten the same day. Local farms plant more than 30 varieties to tempt consumers, including Temptation, Silver Queen, Montauc and Providence.

Locavores, or “localtarians,” are people who eat the majority of their foods from sources close to home and who care about the environmental impact of their food sources. Eating local is a relatively new national and international trend. However, in the Nashua area, local farms have been supplying fresh produce for decades.

Benefits of eating local include having produce that’s in season, eating the best-tasting varieties, protecting open spaces in our towns and helping the local economy. Most important, local fruits and vegetables are the freshest – they ripen a longer time on the plant and are often harvested within 24 hours of purchase.

Most of us also hope our produce is grown with the lowest pesticide use possible. Dr. Alan Eaton, of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, helps local farmers with a difficult balancing act: bringing to market fresh, healthful produce that’s economical to grow.

The same consumers who demand that farmers minimize pesticide use also don’t want caterpillars in the ears of corn they buy. Eaton manages a program called IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, to help farmers satisfy these consumers.

With the help of the Cooperative Extension, New Hampshire growers use an approach that combines preventive and/or suppressive measures, monitoring and controls. Preventive measures for sweet corn include destroying crop residue promptly after harvest and rotating crops. For monitoring, both the Cooperative Extension and the farmers maintain a network of insect traps that track when there are significant flights of the moths that will turn into corn-attacking caterpillars. A Cooperative Extension field scout also checks sweet corn plants for evidence of feeding by the caterpillars and warns growers when there is still time to respond.

Sometimes, controls are required. These can include chemical insecticides for corn earworm, fall armyworm and the European corn borer, biological insecticides or chemicals approved for organic growers. By providing these services, the Cooperative Extension helps decrease the incidence of spraying and the number of damaged ears of corn.

To preserve this program, Hillsborough County Extension educator George Hamilton obtained an IPM grant from the N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food to pay for traps and lures, plus labor and travel to visit farms and monitor traps. As a result, local farmers have a low incidence of spraying, less culling (or throwing out unusable ears), less environmental contamination and a higher number of beneficial insects that attack pests.

And, we get plenty of fresh, local, pest-free corn right in our towns.

This entry was posted in Corn, News & Events. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.