The Van Trump Report

Crops Thousands of Years Ago…

As agriculture emerged in early civilizations, crops were domesticated in four locations around the world — rice in China; grains and pulses in the Middle East; maize, beans and squash in Mesoamerica; and potatoes and quinoa in the Andes. 

What about corn??? Scientists believe people living in central Mexico developed corn at least 7000 years ago. It was started from a wild grass called teosinte. Teosinte looked very different from our corn today. The kernels were small and were not placed close together like kernels on the husked ear of modern corn. Also known as maize Indians throughout North and South America, eventually depended upon this crop for much of their food.

From Mexico, maize spread north into the Southwestern United States and south down the coast to Peru. Around 4,500 ago, maize began to spread to the north; it was first cultivated in what is now the United States at several sites in New Mexico and Arizona, about 4,100 years ago. About 1000 years ago, as Indian people migrated north to the eastern woodlands of present-day North America, they brought corn with them.

When Europeans like Columbus made contact with people living in North and South America (about 529 years ago), corn was a major part of the diet of most native people. When Columbus “discovered” America, he also discovered corn. But up to this time, people living in Europe did not know about corn.

The Sauk and Mesquakie tribes came to live in present-day Iowa during the 1700s. When pioneers began to push toward Iowa in the 1820’s and 30s, the Sauk and Mesquakie were living along the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Rock River.

Like other tribes in the region, the Sauk and Mesquakie women planted many acres of corn each spring. They tended the fields surrounding their villages and nurtured gardens of pumpkins, beans and squash.

The most famous Sauk leader was Chief Black Hawk. Near the end of his life, he told his life story to Antoine Le Claire, an Indian interpreter. In part of his story, he told how corn first came to be according to Sauk and Mesquakie tradition, so he or his relatives must have first seen it come to the area. 

After Columbus and others took corn back to Europe it began to be planted around the world. It is now grown from 58° N latitude in Canada and Russia to 40° S latitude in South America, with a corn crop maturing somewhere in the world nearly every month of the year! (Source: ScienMag; Britannica; History; CampSilos)

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