The Most Popular Crop

ACOMA - I visited my friend in Acoma Pueblo a few weeks ago and noticed an odd machine in her carport. She told me it was her husband’s corn husking machine that he was using to husk his summer’s crop of blue, yellow, and red corn. My interest was immediate. This family is very talented and self-reliant. She is the type of cozy homemaker who always has the oven and stove busy making something to keep her family well fed and nourished. Her other amazing talents are pottery, jewelry, painting, and being generally creative. She and her husband are runners, and he coaches at a nearby high school. He is also good with his hands and spends hours out-of-doors building and farming.

Over the summer I watched his chicks and ducklings become productive chickens and ducks. I’d heard about his corn field, and saw his colorful harvest in the back of his truck. I never realized the next step brought closure to a centuries old, and accepted method of farming in the pueblos


His corn husking machine is an antique McCormick-Deering International Harvest originally made in Chicago. McCormick started his company with a reaper in 1831, and decided to move his new business to Chicago in 1847. He bought out a major competitor, William Deering, in 1902, acquiring the manufacturing rights to the more efficient Deering Harvester. I don’t know the exact date that my friend’s shucker was made. From my research it seems that they were made early in the company’s formation, around the 1920’s. I mentioned this story to a few local people who are in their 80’s +, and they remember them being used around the pueblos and Spanish land grants.
The Anasazi received corn, then called maize, around 2 B.C.E, or about the time of the birth of Christ. It spread to the Americas through cultural dissemination from Mesoamerica and South America where it had long been a mainstay of their diet. The once seminomadic pueblo people became a more sedentary farming culture once they were introduced to dry farming and its variety of crops.
From earliest days the pueblo people would harvest their corn, grind it using a stone mano and matate, then the ground corn was made into a meal and used for tamales. The husks were used to encase the tamales. But corn is an ancient and international crop, shared by cultures throughout history.
Corn is still a popular dry farming crop in the pueblos. It was more prevalent several decades ago before the casino economy took hold. I remember in the 1980’s seeing fields of corn growing by the railroad tracks in Acomita, also below the mesa of Sky City, and while driving along old Route 66 in Laguna’s Paraje Village.
I would mention the other countries that grow corn, but actually, corn is grown in every country except Antarctica. It is hard to deny the historic and current importance of this single crop. In Minnesota, residents celebrate their love for the yellow vege with the annual Minnesota State Corn Husking Competition, as do the residents in Illinois, Nebraska, and Missouri, and probably the other forty-six as well.
So, if you are a city dweller who loves yellow corn dripping with butter, grilled corn-on-the-cob, seeing the tall stalks swaying in the summer breezes destresses you, or if you are invested in the corn economy, you are hardly alone on the planet.


Buntier, Julie. "Harvesting the Old-Fashioned Way." 12 Oct. 2005. Web. 20 Dec. 2015.
"A Model Machine, the McCormick." Web. 25 Dec. 2015.
Antique Farming. Web. 25 Dec. 2015.

Bratskeir, Kate. "This Is How The Rest Of The World Eats Corn On The Cob." The Huffington Post., 22 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Dec. 2015.