The Stauffer family grows NON GMO heirloom varieties of corn on their 18th century plantation in Pauline, South Carolina. The white variety is Hawkins Prolific and the yellow is Hickory King. They harvest, hand select and mill small batches on site with a pink granite stone mill. The results are some of the best grits and cornmeal you’ve ever eaten. With this superior product, you can feel good about feeding your family. “It has to be the best,” say Jon, “I wouldn’t do it any other way.”
How did they get started? After a visit to one of the few living heirloom corn farmers in Hendersonville, NC, Jon learned everything he could about how to grow heirloom corn. "The seed is hundreds of years old and has been traced back to the Native Americans in Georgia. Hawkins is named after a revolutionary war veteran that was given the seed by the Native Americans” explains Jon.
Don’t miss them at the Greenville’s TD Saturday Market for a sample of their fantastic corn bread and grits. If they're not there, please reach out to them with the contact information below.
“You’ll just have to taste it to understand the difference.” Jon Stauffer
In the 1760’s the King of England granted the plantation to the Smith Family, who served as a Captain in the Revolution War. Fast forward to the early 1990’s, where the home was updated with modern day plumbing and wiring. Today it’s the proud home of Jon, Michelle, Grant and the loving dog, Lucas.
“In each ear of corn, each silk (hair) goes to a kennel. Each silk gets pollinated so you can see when some of the kennels do not get pollinated. This summer there was extreme heat when pollination took place. When this happens, we get to wait until next year to try again.”
Goal of a cover crop: Prime the area for future growth
Jon sows crops to terminate later. The cover crops add different types of nutrients to the soil. Buckwheat adds and brings up phosphorus from the subsoil. Jon doesn’t have to add synthetic phosphorus because he’s growing his own naturally. Plus, the soil always wants to be covered. When we think of weeds, most of us view them as a nuisance. In farming, certain types of weeds add missing nutrients and protect the soil from drying in the summer heat. “This farm may have different weeds than a farm up the road.”
“The foundation of the whole idea is actually working. When I started this 3 years ago I had no earthworms. The house was built because of the land. The land had to be rich, because that’s how people made their living, from the land. In order to build a house like that, the land had to be unbelievable.” Once Jon was out there working it, “…he learned that the land was unbelievably fertile, but it hadn’t been tended to in 80-100 years, so now 3 years later with just doing a little research and work, we have worms all over now.” Who knows? Maybe the Stauffers will be milling buckwheat flour in the upcoming years.
The seeds are designed to be cultivated for the Southeast’s soil type and climate. After growing and collecting the seed over the years, only the best will be replanted. When Jon first started, the ears were set at 9-14 feet tall. Hand picking corn that's 9 ft high is not easy, so Jon started selecting ears at chest height. He collects and uses those seeds in order to give his corn the traits he is looking for. This year, Jon is starting to see success with ears set at his desired picking height. The feeling is “…awesome. That’s the part that keeps your motivated.”
Grant was only one when his family started this venture. His favorite chore: Feeding the chickens. Or is it chasing them?
Nothing says it's HOT OUT more than a big Mason jar of iced water. Thanks Michelle for keeping us hydrated.
Why do all this?
“We are farmers. That’s what we are. If we can come up with another idea to grow something else and find a market for it, I’m all for it. We just need to find out what people want.”
Jon explains “We put it in a glass jar so you can see what you’re going to eat.” "When it’s something as simple as a grit you should be able to see it and it should be the best grit you’ve ever had,” Michelle adds.
“We're preserving tradition. This is what our country was built on. This is what fed our ancestors and it’s a dying art.” Great point Michelle.
Thank you both for bringing the Upstate, SC a product that gives us ALL a taste of South Carolina's History. And a delicious history it is.