It’s the middle of the night, and we are driving across Guatemala in a semi-truck. It is filled with 1,283 bags of QPM, highly nutritious corn seed for farming families to plant, harvest, and save for years to come. We drive through dawn to get the bags to southern coast so that Semilla Nueva farming families can have their seed in time for the rain. Over the past two months our team has witnessed an incredible journey of this corn from the cob to a fully processed seed, bagged and ready for the soil of rural corn fields in Guatemala.
From the earth to the bag, processing nutritious seed takes a whole lot of muscle, patience, science, and teamwork. Here’s a step by step of how it’s done (or at least how our team does it in Guatemala):
First and foremost our partner farmers plant close to 20 acres of corn seed, and patiently nurture it to grow into beautiful stalks. Then, once they’ve dried out in the fields and are ready to be harvested, the process can begin.
Pan to 120 days after the initial planting. Here field laborers endure the heat of the coastal sun, using small handheld metal picks, or tapizcadores, to husk corn and throw the cobs into special bags called costales.
Next the costales must be secured with special rope to avoid these kinds of mishaps.
That is more like it. Thanks, Noé!
We pick up the costales of corn from farms along the southern coast. These get spread out on tarps in a central location in Los Encuentros, Retalhuleu.
Here we sort and remove the kernels from the cobs with a special machine called a desgranadora, or degrainer.
The kernels fly into bags and are spread onto large tarps to dry in the sun. If the kernels are too humid they will break apart.
Once dried, they are brought over to the grain moisture meter. Fun fact: corn should be just around 12% humidity.
The team travels overnight to Jocotan, about six hours from the coast by the border of Honduras, to a seed processing plant to finalize the process.
Here the seeds are separated first by density, then by quality by two different machines. They are treated against fungus, weighed, bagged, and sealed.
Now in planting season, the seeds face the next phase in the adventure and find themselves once again in the earth, to be grown, harvested and saved to be used by communities for harvests to come!