There seems to be a competition for just about everything these days. And a man from New Jersey is the reigning corn crop champion.
Farmer Sam Santini, of Stewartsville, drives a combine through a field in the Pohatcong Creek Valley, Warren County, pulling trucks after trucks of corn.
“It’s shaping up to be a pretty good harvest again this year, so we’re hoping for the best,” Santini said.
When Santini refers to “the best,” what he means is the best in all of America. Santini is unofficially the “King of the Corn”, or New Jersey, as the defending 2020 National Corn Growers Association Champion of the National Corn Yield Contest – the Super Bowl of growing corn. Prizes are awarded based on the amount of corn harvested per acre.
Santini took first prize in the conventional non-irrigated category with 381 bushels per acre harvested from his field.
There is a separate category for cornbelt states like Iowa and Indiana. Santini was only four bushels from beating them. He says farmers in the Midwestern states are often surprised at how much corn he can harvest.
“Indiana is very surprised that New Jersey can grow corn. When I go to National Corn Growers, they tell me, “New Jersey, it’s all cement. I say, ‘Well, I’m showing you that we can grow crops as good or better than you are,’ ”says Santini.
Santini was harvesting corn on Wednesday under the watchful eye of Rutgers Cooperative Extension County Officer Hank Bignell. Bignell is there to supervise and obtain the results to be submitted to the competition.
When they take their lunch break, there are pork roll sandwiches made with pork from the Santini family’s own pigs.
Santini attributes his success to his own experience and to the soil in the fields.
“I have been preparing the ground for 15 years. You have to build your soil. It takes years to replenish the soil, ”he says.
Santini’s father, Dominic, started farming the area in 1922. The family will celebrate 100 years of farming next year, with, hopefully, another championship under their belt.
The results of the 2021 corn yield competition will not be known until December.