Rouge River Farms

News and updates from Rouge River Farms

News about Sweet Corn and Agribusiness Industry

This section provides information, news and updates of what is happening in the world of sweet corn. 

 

Rouge River Farms - ARTICLES & UPDATES

The Consumption of Sweet Corn in America

Rouge River Farms Certifies All US Opertations With Equitable Food Initiative

Rouge River Farms Delivers Fresh Sweet Corn All Year Round 

How Cold, Wet Weather is Affecting Corn Production

What Does the Future of Sweet Corn Trays Look Like in a Greener World?

 

The Consumption of Sweet Corn in America

There are few meals more classically American than a BBQ with a side of sweet corn on the cob with melted butter. Sweet corn is an iconic food in the United States; not only does the US produce significant amounts of corn, but Americans also consume it.

The US is one the largest producer of corn in the world. In 2017/2018, the US produced almost 371,000 metric tons of corn. The country with the second most voluminous production was China, with almost 216,000 metric tons – more than 150,000 metric tons less.

While a lot of this corn isn’t used for consumption, it is only logical that at least some of this corn makes it onto our plates in the summertime.

In addition to recording the production of corn, every year, there are various organizations – private and government – that report statistics on the consumption of corn. In fact, we have the information on the consumption of corn by state.

Is your state among the biggest corn consumers in the country? Keep reading to find out.

Defining Corn Usage

Field corn is a very versatile crop. It can be used as feed for livestock, as fuel in the form of ethanol, it can be exported for use by other countries, and it can be consumed in food.

Now, you might be thinking that eating sweet corn only counts when we eat it off the corn cob. However, we eat field corn in many forms, even if we don’t know it.

Here are some of the ways we consume corn:

  • As high-fructose corn syrup
  • As sweeteners
  • As corn starch
  • As a cereal or other
  • In beverages/alcohol
  • As seed

Here are the 2017 statistics on corn usage in the US:

 

Out of all the ways the US can use corn, you’ll see that consumption is the least of it. Out of over 14 billion bushels of corn that were consumed in 2017, only 1.5 billion were used for human consumption in the US. We likely only recognize we are eating corn when it is in cereal form (which includes the whole corn cob, tortillas, cereals, and more) – out of 1.5 billion of total corn consumption, only 206 million bushels of corn were consumed as cereal and food in 2017.

In summary, the US produces a lot of corn, but most of that corn is not directly for human consumption in the US. That’s not to say American’s don’t eat a lot of corn – they definitely do! Let’s look at who takes the maize cake when it comes to eating corn.

 

Who Consumes the Most Corn?

Worldwide, the top corn consumer is Mexico with 400 pounds a year per person. The US is only about one-third of that with 160 pounds per person. Note that this includes corn consumed in other forms, like in sweeteners and in drinks – not just fresh.

The USDA collected yearly statistics on the consumption of US sweet corn consumed directly per capita up until 2011. In that year, the USDA publication reported that the US consumed 24 pounds of sweet corn per person!

Of those 24 pounds:

  • 9.5 pounds were frozen
  • 5.8 pounds were canned
  • 8.7 pounds were fresh

As mentioned above, we also consume corn in other forms that isn’t only as kernel corn or corn on the cob.

Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t collect information on corn consumption by state. We do however, have valuable information about market trends in sweet corn consumption

Market Trends in Sweet Corn Consumption

The Produce for Better Health Foundation carried out a survey in 2015 to determine the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the US. Corn takes is sixth on the list of the most consumed vegetables in the US, after potatoes, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and almost tied with carrots. According to the survey, Americans eat corn about 28 times a year – which is more than twice a month!

The most popular ways to consume corn is fresh, canned, and frozen combined, and about 70% of the corn purchased is sweet corn (as opposed to field corn). Sweet corn is highly seasonal but in today’s market, retailers are supplying consumers with fresh tray packaged sweet corn 12 months of the year. Gone are the days that you only had fresh sweet corn during the summer and you had to resort to canned or frozen corn during the off season.

The most popular points of sale include delivery to retailers (and sold to the consumer through supermarkets), and direct sale through farm stands and farmer’s markets.

In short, if sweet corn is produced in your region, it is likely you can find it fresh at whatever sale point is most convenient to you. In the off season, there is still fresh sweet corn available but it is grown in southern states and shipped up to retailers

Conclusion

Corn, especially sweet corn, is an iconic American food. There are few things that can compare to the feeling of biting into a fresh ear of corn – with each bite, the sweet yellow kernels burst with juice and flavor that keep you coming back for more.  

The US isn’t the largest corn consumer in the world, but it is the largest corn producer. Even so, at 24 pounds of sweet corn a year, and 160 pounds of corn a year in all forms – Americans eat A LOT of corn!

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Rouge River Farms Certifies All U.S. Operations With Equitable Food Initiative

Contact: LeAnne R. Ruzzamenti, (202) 524-0540, leanne@equitablefood.org

WASHINGTON, September 3, 2019 –Equitable Food Initiative announced today that Rouge River Farms, which specializes in tray-packed and year-round sweet corn, now has all of its U.S. operations EFI certified. In May 2018 Rouge River Farms was the first company on the East Coast to earn an EFI certification, and today the company completes its nationwide

This marks the 30th certification for EFIwhich partners with growers and retailers to create amore transparent food chain, safer food andhealthier places to work. Rouge River Farms’ operations in Florida, Georgia and Virginia have now met more than 300 rigorous standards to earn EFI certification based on independent assessment by third-party certifier SCS Global Services.

“Through EFI’s workforce development and certification program, Rouge River Farms has demonstrated their commitment to the principles of the Ethical Charter,” stated Bonnie Holman, sustainability program manager at SCS Global Services. “Accountability, increased transparency and responsible labor practices are the guiding principles of the charter which is why SCS has endorsed this industry-wide effort. Companies like Rouge River Farms should be applauded for their leadership in these arenas.”

 Rouge River produces the only EFI-certified sweet corn currently available featuring EFI’s Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured® label in select Costco Wholesale locations east of the Mississippi River. Farmworkers receive a bonus from each Rouge River sweet corn purchase made at Costco.

 “EFI is so much more than an audit. It is a holistic approach that transforms the way workers interact, and I have seen how EFI can make a company better,” remarked Margaret Stuart, Senior Compliance Manger at Rouge River Farms. “After the EFI Leadership Team training, I saw an increase in productivity among the workers in our facility. I saw their behaviors and expectations of one another change and that they were taking more pride in their work.”

In just its first four years of operation, EFI has worked with 18 grower-shippercompanies on 47 farm locations, covering 39 produce commodities and impacting more than30,000 farmworkers.

For more information on EFI, visit www.equitablefood.org.

EquitableFoodInitiative|equitablefood.org|202.730.66721875ConnecticutAve.NW,10thFloor,Washington,DC20009

About EFI

Equitable Food Initiative is anonprofit certification and skill-building organization that seeks toincrease transparency in the food supply chain and improve the lives of farmworkers through ateam-based approach to training and continuous improvement practices. EFI brings togethergrowers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to solve the most pressing issues facing the freshproduce industry. Its unparalleled approach sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pestmanagement while engaging workers at all levels on the farm to produce Responsibly Grown,Farmworker Assured™ fruits and vegetables. For more information about Equitable Food Initiative,visit www.equitablefood.org.

View alist of EFI-certified farms at https://equitablefood.org/efi-certified-farms.

About Rouge River

Rouge River Farms provides fresh sweet corn to the market year-round. Established 30 years ago, the company has grown to the point where it now distributes to many valued grocery chains in Canada and the United States. It has growing locations in Florida, Georgia and Virginia in the United States, as well as Ontario in Canada. Rouge River Farms works to ensure that product is harvested at the premium date, cooled immediately and then loaded for transport. Handling produce in the proper way and transporting it as quickly as possible helps to ensure that what ends up on consumer plates at the end of the day is of the utmost quality and freshness. For more information about Rouge River Farms, visit www.rougeriverfarms.com.

About SCS Global Services

SCS Global Services has been a global leader in third-party quality, environmental and sustainability verification, certification, auditing, testing and standards development for more than three decades. Its programs span a cross-section of industries, recognizing achievements in energy, manufacturing, green building, food and agriculture, forestry and more. For more information about SCS Global Services, visit www.scsglobalservices.com.

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Rouge River Farms Delivers Fresh Sweet Corn All Year Round

When you choose the right place to produce, sweet corn availability doesn’t need to be seasonal. Rouge River Farms has one of our main farms and processing plants in Florida – a land that doesn’t see winter. We also produce in Georgia, Virginia and Ontario. The variety of growing locations allows us to produce top-quality corn year-round.  

Not only does Rouge River farms produce corn every season of the year, we also process and package fresh corn so that it can be delivered to major grocery stores in the United States and Canada.

What sets Rouge River Farms sweet corn apart from the rest? Keep reading to find out!

Harvesting and Delivery

Rouge River Farms knows the ins and outs of every season all over North America. This allows us to harvest corn at peak freshness, no matter the season or the location. We produce sweet corn in Florida during the winter months, in Georgia during the spring and fall seasons, and in Virginia and Ontario during the summer months.

No matter where we produce, we ensure that Rouge River Farms implements standardized top-quality growing, harvesting, and packaging standards so that the sweet corn is delivered to grocery stores just as fresh and sweet as it was the moment it was picked. 

As soon as we harvest the sweet corn, it is packaged, cooled and loaded for transport to grocery chains near you.

Quality Standards

Rouge River Farms implements the highest-quality standards for corn production, processing, and packaging. Below we outline just some of the different steps we take to ensuring quality standards throughout the supply chain.

  • Food Safety

At Rouge River Farms, we are aware that food safety is everybody’s concern. Ensuring food safety involves everything from safe food handling to production, inspection, emergency preparedness, employee training, and proper labelling from the farm to the delivery truck.

  • 3rd-Party Auditing

It’s not enough to say that we deliver the highest-quality sweet corn unless another, unbiased opinion can confirm that. Rouge River Farms works with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Benchmarked 3rd party auditing companies that are dedicated to objectively evaluating or safety standards. We are proud to say that we have achieved superior scores from multiple 3rd-part auditing companies, including PRIMUSgfs and Canada Gap Food Safety Audits.  

  • Traceability

A key element of ensuring quality standards is traceability – the ability to follow any package along the food chain. In other words, with an effective traceability program in place, we are able to know exactly where the corn you bought in your local grocery store came from.

  • Good Manufacturing Processes

Rouge River Farms ensures that we implement Good Manufacturing Processes in the processing and packaging plants. Our well-planned manufacturing processes control and follow up on raw material sourcing and contractors, to constant microbiological testing and global hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) standards.

  • Packaging

If not managed correctly, corn is highly perishable. Rouge River Farm workers know the corn lifecycle like the back of their hand. We know that in order to get the freshest corn to you, we need to cool the corn immediately after harvesting and packaged to ensure purity and cleanliness and seal in the freshness.  

EFI (Equitable Food Initiative) Certification

Rouge River Farms’ corn is certified by the Equitable Food Initiative. EFI’s mission is to “bring together growers, farmworkers, retailers, and consumers to transform agriculture and improve the lives of farmworkers.” The EFI standards help to ensure good labor conditions and proper food safety and pest management. When you eat our sweet corn, you can be sure that, not only are you getting the freshest, safest corn out there, but that you are also making a socially-responsible choice. We are the first and currently the only EFI certified sweet corn provider on North America.

Conclusion

When you take a bite into Rouge River Farms’ sweet corn, there is no doubt you are getting the best of the best corn out there; not only is it arriving at your table in peak freshness and sweetness, the quality standards that we manage in order to get the sweet corn from our farms to your supermarket ensure safety and quality.

With Rouge River Farms, you are getting the best quality sweet corn on the market, all year round!

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How Cold, Wet Weather is Affecting Corn Production

The very rainy spring that hit the northeastern US and parts of Canada has hit corn crops hard this year. A viral Facebook post by Tori Cline that showed the difficulties corn farmers are facing in the region compared to last year (1, 2).

 
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, sky, mountain, grass, outdoor and nature
 
 

 

The photo on the left was taken by Tori Cline of her husband Kyle in their Indiana farm in June of last year, and the picture on the right was exactly one year later. The very rainy, and relatively cold spring had a big impact on the ability for corn to grow to its full potential.

In fact, the impact of the rain is so widespread, that AccuWeather predicts that corn production will be at a record-low rate, based on USDA data.

Factors like the widespread flooding, low prices, and unpredictable weather are all elements that influence farmers’ decision to plant or not (3, 4). Almost the entire Midwest, especially northern states, has experienced the significant impact of the rain on their crop production (see state-by-state maps here) (5). 

Even Ontario and Quebec in Canada were affected by damp conditions that slowed corn production (6).

Because of the widespread cold and wet weather this year, weeds become a problem, as does the potential for corn crop disease development. It is even estimated that millions of acres of crops will not be planted this year (7).

 

 How Cold, Wet Weather Affects Corn at Different Stages

The Department of Agronomy at Purdue University and Dennis Todey at the Midwest Climate Hub of Iowa describe how the cold weather affects corn growth at different stages (7, 8).corn corn stalk stalk free picture

Newly-Planted Corn

When corn is planted, and unexpected cold soil temperatures occur between 1-2 days after planting, the cold temperatures (between 41F-50F) could damage the seeds. They experience something called “imbibitional chilling injury.”

The seeds start to “drink” (or imbibe) water to swell, but if the cells of the kernel are too cold, they could rupture as the kernel begins to swell. As you can imagine, this results in a failure of the sprout to emerge.

If the ground is too wet, newly planted seeds can be affected by stunted root development and emergence since a hard crust can develop on soil that can be difficult for crops to break through.

Newly-Emerged Corn

Unexpected cold weather after the corn has emerged could be minor, but it could also result in complete death of all the exposed and affected parts of the plant. In general, as long as the frost doesn’t reach below the soil, and the temperature doesn’t reach lethally cold 28F, the plant can still live and often recover between 5-7 days after the frost.

However, repeated frosts, especially those that impact recovering corn plants, can result in stunting or death.

As for the water, the submerged roots can prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to the roots, and eventually, they can rot (9).

How Will This Affect Consumers?

The biggest impact consumers will find in corn availability over the next several months is on prices of corn. Since there are less production and demand will likely remain the same throughout the summer, corn will get more expensive. Luckily, weather for corn production in states like Florida have been stable, so this will allow Florida producers to help fill the production gap (10).

Takeaways

The Spring of 2019 has been far too wet and cold for fruitful corn production in much of the US Corn Belt. Many agriculturists, like Kyle Cline in Indiana, who have gone ahead and planted corn despite the wet weather (pictured above), have seen significant delays in corn growth and development. Many other farmers have decided not to plant altogether.

The USDA reports that this will result in 5-year record lows in corn production. For consumers, this will very likely mean an increase in corn prices throughout the summer and fall. Luckily, some parts of the country, like Florida, will be able to continue to produce corn so that you can still enjoy your summer corn.

References:

  1. https://www.facebook.com/katie.mcdermit/posts/2526778844001701
  2. https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/viral-before-and-after-photos-speak-volumes-about-corn-belt-farmers-nightmare-struggles-in-2019/70008596
  3. https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/accuweather-predicts-another-historic-low-for-corn-planting-as-billion-dollar-disaster-looms/70008479
  4. https://www.agriculture.com/news/business/mapping-out-the-wet-cold-plant19
  5. https://usda.library.cornell.edu/concern/publications/8336h188j?locale=en#release-items
  6. https://www.usda.gov/oce/weather/pubs/Monthly/current.pdf
  7. https://www.yankton.net/community/article_060bf6ba-93d7-11e9-9ebf-63ec7ecd3f23.html
  8. https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.12/EarlyCornColdWthr-0412.html
  9. https://www.ambiental.co.uk/the-detrimental-impact-of-floods-on-farming-and-rural-areas/
  10. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Crop_Progress_&_Condition/index.php

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What Does the Future of Sweet Corn Trays Look Like in a Greener World?

Little by little, the world is becoming more aware of the impact of their consumer decisions on the planet. In the last few years, there have been global pushes against the use of disposable products especially plastic bags and single-use straws.

 

Why Is There a Trend Away from the Use of Plastic and Styrofoam Products?

Plastic products, including polystyrene (more commonly known by a brand name, Styrofoam) is not biodegradable. If plastic is not recycled, it goes into our streets and landfills, and much of it eventually ends up in our waterways. This poses a major risk to animal life that may confuse it for food, or get it stuck on different parts of their bodies.

Waste that is not properly treated contains chemicals that can leach into the soil and affect water and food sources, and it can have detrimental effects on our health, including causing damage to our nervous system.1

Plastic can be recycled, and recent research has shown that there are ways to break down polystyrene into usable soil 2; however, not enough plastic is recycled to keep up with demand (in fact, some data shows only about 9% is recycled!3), and there are yet to be systems in place to break down polystyrene in the quantities we need for it to make an impact.

Thanks to the impact that eco-conscious groups are making through social media to educate companies and businesses about the impact their packaging and product choices make on the environment and our health, there are trends away from traditional packing products and towards greener alternatives.

 

What are Current Sustainable Packaging Trends?

In 2015, about 141 million tons of plastic4were used for the packaging industry. That is almost as much as all other sectors combined.

Eco-conscious businesses, and the demand from eco-conscious consumers, have begun to push for significant changes in the packaging industry. In fact, according to a white paper by EcoFocus Worldwide 5, about 68% of grocery shoppers believe that it is extremely responsible or very important to “choose foods or beverages that are packaged responsibly”. In fact, over half of shoppershave changed what they buy due to the type or amount of packaging products use.

In short, it is clear that there is a demand for brands and retailers to work harder to share consumer values.

Why not do away with packaging altogether?

Packaging is important for many products, especially produce like certain presentations of sweet corn, to protect them fromdamage, spoilage, and contamination. It helps to reduce food waste by allowing them to stay fresher for longer.

What Are Some Alternatives for Sweet Corn Packaging and other Produce?

packaging-alternatives

Produce like fresh sweet corn without the husk require packaging to increase their freshness and ensure their produce safety. So, if brands no longer want to use plastic or polystyrene, what are some alternatives?

Several high-profile actors and eco-conscious entrepreneurs have offered green and sustainable alternatives to conventional plastic and polystyrene packaging. Biodegradable plastic alternatives entering the market are all plant-based8. Innovation Excellence online9 has identified several alternatives to plastic packaging, of which those that can be applied to sweet corn packaging are mentioned here.

 

 

These include:

  1. Plant-based plastics: Much of the research on these have been summarized by the Organization of American States (OAS)10:
  2. Soy
  3. Pea and potato
  4. Chitin (from marine sources)
  5. Cassava
  6. Bananas
  7. Cotton
  8. Wheat
  9. Corn
  10. Bamboo
  11. Palm leaves
  12. And many more!

Packaging made from these materials are biodegradable and, while research is still being conducted on many of these, they may offer alternatives to plastic trays.

  1. Mushroom root (Mycelium): Looks like a fibrous packaging – would be a great alternative to polystyrene for many products.
  2. Bagasse: Another alternative to polystyrene that comes from sugarcane fiber
  3. Biodegradable cellophane: How about alternatives to clear film? New technology is also being applied to plastic to allow it to biodegrade anywhere between nine months to five years. One example is EarthAware’s biodegradable film11.  Another option is Natureflex12’ compostable and renewable packaging films.

 

Take-Away Message

It is clear that the stars are beginning to align regarding building opportunity to produce, transform, and buy products that reflect values in environmental sustainability. Consumers are becoming more conscious, researchers are inventing alternatives to conventional packaging, and entrepreneurs and large-scale business are making them available to brands to use.

 

At Rouge River Farms we are committed to staying caring for the quality of what we produce, and in going so, caring for people’s health and the planet. That is why we are EFI certified, and why we continue to innovate our processes so that we reflect our values, and can continue to supply sweet corn to a changing, more eco-conscious world.

 

References:

1) https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.7518 
2)www.natureworldnews.com/articles/17153/20150930/plastic-pollution-mealworms-convert-styrofoam-waste-usable-soil.htm
3)news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/
4) ourworldindata.org/faq-on-plastics
5) evergreenpackaging.com/wp-content/uploads/18-EVP-0057-Trend-White-Paper-FINAL.pdf
6) evergreenpackaging.com/wp-content/uploads/18-EVP-0067-_Retail_Trends_Infographic_v2_.pdf
7) sbfoodinno.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/180612_CS_Food-Packaging_Per-Stefan-Gersbro.pdf
8) www.oas.org/en/sedi/dsd/docs/ReportT&T_2016.PDF
9) www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2018/07/02/13-plastic-packaging-alternatives/
10)www.oas.org/en/sedi/dsd/docs/ReportT&T_2016.PDF
11)  www.greenerpackage.com/compost_biodegrade/earthaware_bag-film_materials_are_biodegradable
12) www.futamuragroup.com/divisions/cellulose-films/products/natureflex/


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