Tuesday, September 19, 2017 Elyria 67°


Season starts slow, but corn arriving soon



Despite a lousy, soggy spring, Ron Pickworth feels sure much Lorain County farmland will produce a sweet corn crop that will be knee-high or nearly that tall by the 4th of … today.

“If you go by that old adage about being knee-high by the 4th of July, I think most of the corn around this area will make it,” Pickworth said Thursday night.

Other farmers varied in their assessments as to the readiness of this year’s corn crop.

After rains and flooding that inundated the county in May, farm fields dried out sufficiently and got enough sunshine to allow crops to get in the ground to produce sweet corn crops that will be a bit late but still in time for good summer eating.

“We’re still a little weather-stressed, but the corn and soybeans look pretty decent,” Pickworth said of his 250-acre farm off Whitehead Road.

While nearly all of that acreage was used in the past for corn, fewer than 100 acres were devoted to the crop this year due in part to the poor spring weather, said Ron’s wife, Judy.

The couple looks to see the bulk of their sweet corn crop come in by mid-August or so.

This year’s corn was planted in between periods of rainfall, Judy Pickworth said.

“It’s been hard to get back into the fields,” she said. “We’ve had standing water in a number of places.”

But now the crop is greening up and looking nice, Judy Pickworth said.

As for when the couple predicts their sweet corn ship will arrive, “it usually comes the week of the county fair when we don’t have the time to take care of it,” Judy Pickworth joked.

Other area farmers were able to get their corn crops in the ground sooner.

Pat Fenik, of Fenik’s Sweet Corn in Elyria, plans to have corn available for sale Sunday at its Lake Avenue location.

Dave Miller, owner of Miller Orchards, said he used to grow sweet corn but gave it up a few years back largely in favor of various fruits.

“I got tired of sharing it with the raccoons,” Miller said. “They’d get about half of it. I fought them, but this is a lot of woods, so I just thought I’d go and fight something else.”

Gary Sweet, of North Ridgeville’s Sweets Sweet Corn, has had callers asking “why there’s no corn by the Fourth of July.”

“If you recall back what April was like, that gives you a pretty good idea why,” Sweet said with a laugh.

Still, he predicted his sweet corn should be ready for sale in eight to 10 days.

Sweet said he’s seen a change in corn planting patterns over time.

“Looking back, my grandfather and my father planted corn for 50 years in a row between April 6 and 13,” Sweet said.

A firm believer in changing weather patterns, Sweet said farmers in general cannot get corn or other crops in the ground that early these days.

“You gamble with frost now” during early April, Sweet said. “You’re talking the last week in April now. That’s how much things have changed.”

Another big change for Sweet is the loss of nearly all his sweet corn-growing land.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, he was planting 2,500 acres. But the severe summer drought of 1988 dealt him a blow he never recovered from.

“We lost 2,400 acres of that total,” Sweet said. “We never rebounded from that drought.”

These days, his sweet corn production comes from a mere 35 acres.

“We’ll supply a few roadside stands this year,” Sweet said.

A good portion of his corn business is with chain supermarkets and retailers.

“The small guy is gone and the medium guy is almost gone, too,” Sweet said, speaking of changes in business practices that are making it increasingly difficult for small to medium growers to compete with today’s mega-farms.

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