Green fields full of green beans
When you grow green beans, harvest comes as early as July – no crisp, cool fall mornings to look forward to here. It’s hot and right at the height of summer heat. But, growing green beans is a proud tradition on our family farm in southeastern Illinois, and we have the makings of another excellent green bean crop soon to be on its way to a Green Giant facility in Wisconsin where they are canned. On our farm, green beans are part of our diverse crop rotation along with soybeans, corn, seed corn and seed soybeans (grown for use as seeds for planting), and wheat.
This year I’m growing 130 acres of green beans. As a quick reminder, an acre is about the size of a football field. The growing season is just 60 days long, so I’m able to plant two crops a year – one in May and then again in August. I always look forward to green bean harvest when a specialized harvester comes in to pick the beans. Green beans are picked when they are young and tender, and the harvester has long rake-like teeth that bring the green beans in and separate them from the leaves and stems. The green beans are loaded onto a semi and off they go on their journey from farm to table. And did you know, the green beans in my field or in your backyard garden – all green beans are non-GMO, whether it’s on the label or not.
THE SECRET TO GREAT GREEN BEANS: WATER
Water is essential to all crops, but it plays an extremely important role when growing green beans. A water-deficient green bean is course and knobby – and not exactly the type of product a food company wants on grocery shelves, nor what we want to enjoy on our plates. But a well-watered bean is long, slender and crisp when it snaps. These are the ideal green beans for eating and that’s what we strive to grow on our farm.
My family is blessed to farm on an underground river source fed from the Wabash River, which is adjacent to my family’s land. That essential resource allows for us to produce green beans in an irrigated environment. I put 1 inch of water on my green bean acres every week by using what we call center pivots, a piece of equipment that rotates around my acres serving as a sprinkler system.
Next time you are in the grocery store and shopping for green beans, I hope you think of families like mine that take great pride and responsibility in growing your food with care.