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Free Seed Corn
Joe Borries sold just over 1,000 bu. of seed corn last year and didn't give away a single cap. "One man asked me why we didn't," he remembers. "I told him we gave away something better - all the seed corn he would need from now on."
Surrounded by a sea of hybrids, Borries is one of a handful of die-hards who still grow and sell old-time open-pollinated corn. On isolated patches of soil on his farm near Teutopolis, Ill., he faithfully maintains four varieties: Reid's Yellow Dent, Henry Moore, Krug and Boone County White. Good solid names you can sink your teeth into; not some sterile high-tech number.
"That's all we raised before I went into the army in World War 2," he explains. "When I got home there was none left. I wanted open-pollinated because I didn't think hybrids were as good for silage, and they aren't. It isn't that we didn't give hybrids a good test. We did. From the mid `40's until the late '60's we raised mostly hybrids."
He sold 2 bu. in 1969, the year he decided to go commercial. In 1970, corn blight threw the entire Midwest into panic and carved out a foothold for Borries's blight-free corn. "Confidence in hybrid corn was thoroughly shaken," he remembers. "A lot of new faces showed up at the faun. We couldn't supply the demand."
Today Borries and sons Gerald and Leonard sell corn to the likes of University of Wisconsin and Cargill. "We have customers who are part-time farmers and retired farmers, customers who want it for wildlife and customers who just want a pound or two for roasting ears," says Borries, who has sold corn ,in every state except Nevada.
"This year in our ads we point out that open-pollinated corn will produce more silage because the stalks grow larger. Quite a few dairymen are buying it for that," he adds. "We could have sold a lot more if we hadn't talked some people out of it. We try to make certain our buyers are going to use the corn themselves as livestock feed. If they want to produce a lot of bushels for the market, we know open-pollinated won't yield up with the hybrids. We don't want them disappointed." Borries says his best yield ever was 95 bu.
"The other thing that slows down sales for us is that we try to impress on farmers that they can select their own seed from this year's crop to plant next year," Borries says.
He adds that considerable dedication is required to keep each variety pure. "We are helped out in that we have some isolated patches where we can raise a variety with-out cross pollination.
"We have found that any kind of open-pollinated corn that was ever raised is still produced somewhere. We know of five farms selling in the U.S. and have no doubt there are lots of others we know nothing about," Borries says.
"If the blight or some other disaster should again threaten the corn crop, there is a substantial open-pollinated corn base left out in the country that can be relied on to begin again."
Borries says livestock - and even squirrels - prefer open-pollinated corn to hybrid corn. "I had one man tell me he had a feeder where he put out corn for squirell is on spikes. When he first got my corn he decided to finish up the hybrid he had, too. He found that squirrels went to the open-pollinated first, even when he made it harder to reach."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Joseph Borries, Rt. 1, Teutopolis, Ill. 62467 (ph 217 857-3377).
Photo and story reprinted with permission from Top Producer.

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1990 - Volume #14, Issue #3