The Journey of a QPM Seed

It’s the middle of the night, and we are driving across Guatemala in a semi-truck. It is filled with 1,283 bags of QPM, highly nutritious corn seed for farming families to plant, harvest, and save for years to come. We drive through dawn to get the bags to southern coast so that Semilla Nueva farming families can have their seed in time for the rain. Over the past two months our team has witnessed an incredible journey of this corn from the cob to a fully processed seed, bagged and ready for the soil of rural corn fields in Guatemala.

From the earth to the bag, processing nutritious seed takes a whole lot of muscle, patience, science, and teamwork. Here’s a step by step of how it’s done (or at least how our team does it in Guatemala):

First and foremost our partner farmers plant xx acres of corn seed, and patiently nurture it to grow into beautiful stalks. Then, once they’ve dried out in the fields and are ready to be harvested, the process can begin.
First and foremost our partner farmers plant close to 20 acres of corn seed, and patiently nurture it to grow into beautiful stalks. Then, once they’ve dried out in the fields and are ready to be harvested, the process can begin.
1 mazorca fortaleza
Pan to 120 days after the initial planting. Here field laborers endure the heat of the coastal sun, using small handheld metal picks, or tapizcadores, to husk corn and throw the cobs into special bags called costales.
Next the costales must be sealed with special rope to avoid these kinds of mishaps.
Next the costales must be secured with special rope to avoid these kinds of mishaps.
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That is more like it. Thanks, Noé!
We have to pick up the corn bags of corn from farms in other regions along the southern coast to spread out on tarps in a central location in Los Encuentros, Retalhuleu.
We pick up the costales of corn from farms along the southern coast. These get spread out on tarps in a central location in Los Encuentros, Retalhuleu.
8 Desgranadora (1)
Here we sort and remove the kernels from the cobs with a special machine called a desgranadora, or degrainer.
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The kernels fly into bags and are spread onto large tarps to dry in the sun. If the kernels are too humid they will break apart.
10 Measuring seed humidity
Once dried, they are brought over to the grain moisture meter. Fun fact: corn should be just around 12% humidity.
11 Loading the semi truck with seed
The team travels overnight to Jocotan, about six hours from the coast by the border of Honduras, to a seed processing plant to finalize the process.
Reina Weighs seed
Here the seeds are separated first by density, then by quality by two different machines. They are treated against fungus, weighed, bagged, and sealed.
juanitowithjacoboandfamilia
Now in planting season, the seeds face the next phase in the adventure and find themselves once again in the earth, to be grown, harvested and saved to be used by communities for harvests to come!

 

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3 thoughts on “The Journey of a QPM Seed

  1. Do you give the seeds back to farmers in the communities for free to grow? Or do you charge them? Does Semilla Nueva make a profit off of the process or do you use grant money to pay for all of the process describeD?

    Thanks!

    1. Hey Kristin! Thanks for your question! In 2016 our partner farmers received seed to grow in exchange to promise to share their results and share the reusable seed with their families. We also partnered with agropecuarios (seed/agricultural goods stores) in Santo Domingo to sell for a very reduced price of 30 quetzales per 12.5 pound bag of seed. Currently we used grant and individual donation monies to fund the project, but starting in 2017 we plan to sell seed at a cost accessible to farmers to make the project more sustainable!

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