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From Corn to Cucumbers!

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 8:00 AM by Iowa Corn

CAT learning about cucumber harvest.
On July 16th, the Iowa corn staff, Collegiate Advisory Team (CAT), and Grassroots committee representatives had the opportunity to visit a cucumber farm in Maryland. It was a day full of new experiences, information, and adventures. In order to get to the farm from DC, we had to travel across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge that was 6 miles long and had a clearance of 186 feet below the bridge!
During our visit harvesting was in full swing. Shortly after arriving we met Hannah who is a farmer at the cucumber farm. Hannah and her father operate the farm but they also have some custom work. Their operation started in 1978 with 1 ½ acres and has grown to 800-1000.  

Cucumber Seed

Cucumber seed costs $1,200 for a 5 gallon bucket that plants 5-6 acres. In order to plant the crop, 
they use a 12 row John Deere tool bar with Monocine planter units. Cucumbers are planted in 24 inch beds with 36 inches between beds in sandy loam soil. The cucumber season is only 45 days from plant to harvest, which occurs late April to mid September.  During this time a double crop of wheat/cucumber, or soybean/cucumber is harvested. Spring crop is usually the best and the fall crop is not as good because of double cropping. When it’s time to harvest the cucumbers, each machine harvests an acre an hour of, moving at a pace of 1.5 miles per hour. A semi load can hold about 5 acres of cucumbers, or 45,000 lbs.

The cucumber crop is extremely sensitive crop when talking size. When it is ready to harvest you only have about a day to get it harvested. Hannah and her father used to sell their cucumbers directly to Vlasic for making pickles, but now they sell to Kenny Brothers, not far away in Delaware, who then sells to Vlasic. Vlasic allows the cucumbers to be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, or a good farmer estimate is about the circumference of your middle finger connected with your thumb. If it is too big, the harvester rejects the cucumbers. Typically the rejected cucumbers are left on the ground but during our visit the rejected cucumbers were being picked up to be taken to a local food bank.

Kenny Brothers - sorting
We also had the opportunity to tour Kenny Brothers, where they take their cucumbers to be sorted and graded. Hannah explained to us that the cucumbers are sent on a truck to be sorted, graded, and put on a reefer truck the same day as when they come in to be sent off.  Seeing how the workers and machines worked was a great learning experience.

Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay area are required to have a detailed nutrient reduction plan. They are required by law to document everything they do including: the day and time they got into the field, the soil temperature, wind speed, the activity being performed (spraying, harvesting or planting. If farmers are spraying, they write down the amount of chemical that was used and where, who the chemical came from and what equipment was being used. This was an eye opening experience for me.

This experience is something I will forever treasure. I love seeing how other people farm differently as well as farm different crops. It just goes to show how diverse agriculture and farming practices can be!

Carley Christiansen is a senior at Iowa State University double majoring in Agricultural Studies and Public Service and Administration in Agriculture. She grew up on a crop farm in North Central Iowa, outside of Coulter. Carley is on the 2012-2013 Iowa Corn Collegiate Advisory Team.

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