We spent a beautiful August afternoon at the farm with patriarch Bruce Muck. He raises popcorn, garlic, soybeans, field corn, and alfalfa hay for the herd of beef cattle. Bruce has been at this location since 1970. The present farm is 325 acres. He showed us his chickens (which were entertaining to say the least). He currently has 36 chickens that produce brown eggs. We enjoyed listening to the increase of the chickens’ murmurs as we approached. Bruce said they have a lot of personality.
We took a ride along the lane viewing cornfields. You could hear the pride in Bruce’s voice as he talked about his daily walk on that lane. The corn was tall and healthy, and truly a sight to see. The farm grows popcorn, field corn, and corn for ethanol. You can tell the difference in the plants by the color of their tassels. Bruce also told us that this year’s abundance of rain has delayed his popcorn harvest. Popcorn has a 110-day growth cycle and it can’t be rushed since it must mature in the field.
Bruce showed us the barn where tables of garlic and shallots were drying. The Kernel grows three varieties of garlic: Italian softneck, German white hardneck (the most common local variety due to its winter-hardy nature), and a relatively mild Vietnamese Red. We learned that taking garlic from ground to market is pretty labor intensive. The garlic must first be dried on racks. Then it must then be cleaned of dirt — which is done by hand. Another side effect of this year’s summer rain is increased difficulty in cleaning the bulbs for sale.
Garlic is the root bulb of the garlic plant, but each plant also produces a “scape,” which grows up the center of the plant and bears a seed bulbil at its tip. Scape can be roasted and used for spread or to season food. Garlic bulbs not suitable for sale are dried, cleaned and ground for garlic powder, which The Kernel also sells at the Market.
The soybeans are a commercial crop for the farm. We learned that they must be grown on flattened ground since pods sprout from the top of the plant all the way to bottom. The flattened ground makes it easier for the combines to harvest all the pods — even those that grow just above the soil line.
Look for the Kernel’s fantastic popcorn and garlic products at the Market, and if you get lucky, you might even get to say hello to Jasmine, their border collie, who sometimes accompanies the harvest at the Market.