Derek Johnson Muses

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Ear samples day

This is the fifth year in a row I’ve driven out to Hastings, Nebraska to obtain ear samples from our production plots. It always makes for a merry two-thirds of a day trip that ends with lunch at the OK Cafe or Valentino’s. Unfortunately, this year I didn’t make it out until the afternoon due to an appointment I couldn’t miss, so my post-pic meal was Runza on the way home, a small sign of how busy I’ve been the past couple of weeks.

Leftover from a field day, 2010

The project is pretty simple: pluck three sample ears from each hybrid and place them on a paper with the hybrid number on it, along with a measuring mechanism. This year, my father designed a special paper that I could print and photograph the samples on. It’s always such a good day for me: last trip out to Hastings for a year, seeing the bountiful (or not, in some cases) harvest that will be on its way to our customers.


Hastings is only a little more than an hour from Seward, and there’s a Starbucks on the way. The trip doesn’t take up my whole day, although it’s long enough to throw a wrench in it. My dad used to go out to Hastings all the time when he worked for NC+ and they had the plant there, and the Starrs’ remain our last link to the area.

Starrs fields are on the outskirts of Hasting, near the Country Club and a high-end neighborhood that’s grown into their fields. The fields around them are a mixed bag; the worst look really bad. Today happens not to be a good day to get the seed, as I have to dodge leftover water from the pivot.

Well Watered

Starrs’ other field, Plum, is over by the railroad tracks and boarded on the south side by a bad dirt road. Said dirt road is so bad, this year I didn’t even bother to drive on it. It is easily the worst dirt road I’ve ever been on. In fact, I’ve probably been in off road situations that were worse. Only Nebraska. These fields were a gruel: of the eleven hybrids I had to obtain, six came from the two pivots in this field.

Chip of the Iceberg

Railroad Tracks that are the North Border of Plum

Monday evening, I rolled back to I-80 over the near-dry Platte and sped toward home, forced to make calls in the interim because of the wild month I’ve had. The pictures I took will go in my Dad’ file and will be sent to our growers. I’ll likely go back next year, and do it again.

Disposing of Used Samples

8 responses to “Ear samples day

  1. Gary Stein August 31, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Hey Derek,
    I have been reading some of your blogs and I admire your perspective on Husker football, even though I am more of a Mizzou Tiger fan because that is where I am from, however, I do enjoy the corn products of Nebraska which is why I am choosing to respond to this particular blog in the first place and posing this question to you on this day. I am sort of a corn nerd and therefore my question is kernel in nature. I was wondering if your ears were more of a yellow such as the “Golden Cross Bantam” or more of a “Sugar Buns” which has an excellent flavor; deep attractive kernels and relatively small ears. Anywho, keep blogging and spice up the vlogging for me. I am trying to get into the whole video thingy for myself, but my wife says I’ll get motion sickness before I make a motion picture if you know what I mean! Well take care and don’t forget to
    Gary Stein

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