Spring - The birds are chirping, the sun is out, and the soil has warmed up. We till the soil to help control weeds and place the little popcorn seeds about 1.5 inches deep in Missouri’s fertile prairie soils. Typically, field corn planting happens in early to mid-May, but popcorn planting happens slightly later- in mid to late-May. This insures that the soils are warm enough for germination and we have the best shot at a healthy start.
Sprouting - After being in the soil for 5-7 days the baby popcorn plants start to poke their heads out! We plant popcorn at a rate of 27,000 plants per acre. For a comparison- one acre is about the size of a football field. That’s a lot of popcorn!
Tasseling - After growing for about a month and a half vegetative, the popcorn starts shooting out tassels (the big white tops you see on corn each summer). This is when popcorn goes into reproductive mode and fertilizes the ears! This is a very critical time in the life of a popcorn plant when conditions have to be just right. If the nights are too warm, the soil too dry, or the air too hot- final yield and ear quality will suffer.
Ear fill - After fertilization, popcorn starts putting all its energy into producing the biggest and healthiest ear possible. If the soil is lacking in fertility the plant will even pull nutrients from its own lower leaves and pack them into the kernels of adolescent popcorn. After ear fill is complete the plant starts to die, and the kernels begin to dry out. Not much longer until harvest!
Harvest - The time we’ve been patiently waiting for all summer is here! When popcorn dries down to about 13% moisture we begin harvest with a large combine. This combine takes 6 rows at a time and separates the kernels from the stalk and ears. The chopped-up stalks and ears are thrown back onto the field to nourish the soil through the winter, and the grain is stored in a large tank on the combine until it can be dumped on a truck and carried to a grain bin. Once the popcorn has been trucked back to the grain bin, it is dumped into an auger and carried up to the grain bin where it will sit and condition until cleaning and packaging begins.
Cleaning - Once harvest is completed, we begin the task of cleaning the popcorn! The combine does a great job of separating the popcorn from the plant, but there’s still more steps to take before it can be sold to customers. The seed cleaners’ job is to separate the popcorn kernels from weed seeds, small bits of popcorn cob and stalk, and broken kernels from good ones. This is a very labor-intensive part of the process and we typically hand screen the popcorn after the seed cleaner to ensure that only the highest quality kernels make it into a Spoor Farms bag.
Packaging - After the popcorn has been cleaned, we package it up, weigh it, label it, and get it sent out to valued customers across the nation! We package our bulk orders in 50lb bags that are destined for kettle corn companies and concession stands. We package 2lb bags for sale in grocery stores, hardware stores, and our handy online store.