A Rediscovered Corn Sheller Gets New Life
Last year, we planted 800 row feet of organic popcorn in Poplar field (between the Welcome Center and Farm Barn), and 660 row feet of organic blue corn.
The Inn has wanted to use more of both types of corn in the restaurant. (Here’s a primer on major corn varieties.) But last season, hand processing the popcorn just took too long (even with the help of so many kids in our education programs, where we use the corn as a way to connect young people to where their food comes from).
Then educator Linda Wellings told me that years ago she had used a machine on the Farm that took the kernels off the cob. She just didn’t know where the machine was anymore. After a little searching in the Farm Barn we found it!
It is a W.M. Bingham Co. Cleaved, Ohio, Eagle No. 3 Corn Shelling Machine. Rumor has it that it originally came from the farm of Jim Gilmore, the father of educator Susie Marchand, who brought the machine to the Farm. (So it’s not original to Shelburne Farms.)
The machine was in rough shape, but with some cleaning and A LOT of help from Bruce Beeken and Jeff Parsons of Beeken Parsons, it has come back to life. Jeff and Bruce got really excited when they saw it!
Here is a video of Jim testing it out.
This coming season, we plan to plant about the same amount of popcorn and blue corn as last year. We’ve saved and will replant the blue corn kernels, because this type of corn is open pollinated, which means its seeds will yield the exact same type of corn. The hybrid popcorn won’t do that. But! We have to grow the popcorn, blue corn and sweet corn in different fields because if they cross pollinate we will have total crop failure: popcorn that does not pop, sweet corn that is not sweet, and blue corn that is not blue!
Once we harvest the corn in late summer, we’ll test whether the machine can help us supply the inn with more popcorn and blue corn!