Heritage Corn: Planting, Challenges and Educating from the Family Plot Perspective

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $26,993.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Zuleyja Prieto
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Zuleyja Prieto
Zuleyja Prieto

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Animal Production: genetics
  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, seed saving
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, land access
  • Pest Management: biological control, field monitoring/scouting
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community development, local and regional food systems, quality of life, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Many folks want to grow small-scale heritage corn at home, though knowledge of how to do so successfully is lacking, as is cultural awareness about corn diversity.  With much of northern Indiana in close proximity to commercial cornfields with GMO traits, growing small-scale GMO-free heritage corn for human consumption and seed saving is challenging.  Since commercial corn pollen travels far, is backyard heritage corn GMO contaminated? Should we test?  In 2021 and 2022, five+ farmers will grow plots of heritage corn (varieties seed saved from 2019, 2020) for processing, eating, seed saving, and sharing, with attempts to reduce GMO contamination by planting date and with hand pollination techniques to improve purity.  Corn from three farms will undergo GMO testing in 2021 and 2022.  Throughout the 2021 and 2022 season, growers will teach steps of raising backyard heritage corn at seven trainings.  Larger events and tastings will take place Fall of 2021 and 2022. Growers will visit other heritage corn growers and businesses.  Digital resources will document learning and be shared publicly to enhance community learning.  Corn seed will be shared with new seed stewards, and a  community network of heritage corn stewards and enthusiasts supported.  

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Grow backyard heritage corn in Northern Indiana with sustainable practices, collecting data from experiments with planting dates and hand pollination to avoid GMO contamination from commercial corn.
    2. Identify the resources needed for raising heritage corn at the backyard scale, for the sustenance of households, seed saving and sharing.
    3. Educate our community of the biological, cultural, agronomic, economic, and health implications of heritage corn production at the homestead level through family-to-family, farmer-to-farmer, and farmer-to-community educational trainings and events, social media and video documentaries.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.