Non-GMO Corn Crop Circles Pop Up in Nebraska

non-gmo corn

There’s a new crop circle in town, and this one is definitely terrestrial in nature.

Snack company Our Little Rebellion has teamed up with a local Nebraska farmer to create crop art that sends a powerful message: we need more non-GMO corn.

“It’s super creative — we’re really excited about it,” says Courtney Pineau, Associate Director of the Non-GMO Project, which verifies Our Little Rebellion’s non-GMO snacks. “I’ve never really seen a brand undertake an endeavor like this, so that’s one of the things that we really loved about it.”

The nine-acre project took quite a bit of time and effort to orchestrate: a dedicated crop artist, sophisticated GPS mapping, plus more than a week of 15 people hand-cutting the corn.

“We also used drones to give a top-down visual of the process, which was all carried out at Jim McGowan’s farm,” explains Paul Nardone, CEO of Our Little Rebellion.

McGowan is the fifth-generation Nebraska farmer who agreed to have the crop circle made in his cornfields, which have been producing non-GMO corn for 12 years.

“We’re really excited to be able to see the whole circle here come into effect,” explains McGowan. “Most of the time in production agriculture, it’s treated as a regular raw commodity and you don’t even know what happens to it. To see the actual chain complete with this product from that field is really special.”

The project seeks to draw attention to the baffling 92 percent of American corn acreage currently being grown with genetically modified seeds – and to Our Little Rebellion’s efforts to source the 20 million pounds of corn it uses annually from the other eight percent.

Nardone explains that in order to make its products with non-GMO corn, Our Little Rebellion has had to rebuild supply chains, partnering with 59 small-scale family farms like McGowan’s to make non-GMO corn more accessible, both for them and for others.

“We thought the art piece could be disruptive in a creative way and sort of spark this conversation about GMO corn in the United States and help bring attention to what non-GMO corn means for our country’s family farmers,” explains Nardone.

Of course, once the crop circle field is harvested, it’ll be back to business as usual: the design was specially created not to waste any of the corn, and much of the stalk portion will be used for cattle grazing once the harvest is over this month.

The hope, however, is that this image will remain in people’s minds, so that more consumers will be inspired to demand that more companies source from farms like McGowan’s.

“We’ve been able to grow non-GMO corn for years, but having a market and a market premium for it is what has enabled us to continue to do that,” explains McGowan.

“Like anything, as there’s more market demand, farmers will grow what the brands want,” says Pineau. “And right now, the market is asking for more non-GMO supply of corn and soy and canola, and so we’re seeing farmers really step forward and start growing more non-GMO.”

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Images care of Our Little Rebellion

Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.