Farmer Friday: Sweet Corn

“Summer” is a very popular answer for the question “What is your farm family’s favorite season?” The reasons vary. The most common ones are that kids are home from school, the weather is beautiful and it’s sweet corn season!

Nothing beats fresh sweet corn for dinner and one of the perks of being a farmer is growing the golden deliciousness right on your own farm. This can also be a benefit for the neighbors in late July and early August, when the summer’s crop begins to hit local farm stands and farmer’s markets!

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Before it reaches the market, a lot of work goes into growing this local produce. Beyond being delicious, this long-time tradition brings family together and is a great way to get even the youngest generation on the farm involved. Kids soon learn the value of hard-earned money. For many families the profits go directly to a school savings account. That may mean new sneakers, a uniform for soccer, or college tuition. Whatever the process looks like, sweet corn sales are a popular summer activity that brings a smile to people of all ages.

​ It is sweet corn season, and you'll find no sweeter than at the @cabotcheese family farms' farm stands! #FarmerFriday Click To Tweet

Picking begins early in the morning. Family members head out to the field with 5 gallon buckets in tow, before the dew has evaporated from the corn stalks. Keeping a stand fully stocked can be a struggle. Once the word gets out that the sweet corn is ready, the neighbors come faithfully.

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This week, we feature a few of our farm families who sell sweet corn. We also have a full list of farms in New York and New England that you can visit at: cabotcheese.coop/sweetcorn. The farms listed will also have coupons for Cabot butter – visit before supplies run out!

Rene Boardman of Carlwood Farm and Boardman’s Farm Stand, Canaan, CT

Why did you start selling sweet corn?
Our story is a bit different than the others I’m sure, since we don’t grow or sell the corn at the dairy farm in Canaan, CT – we actually sell our sweet corn about 10 miles away from our dairy farm in my hometown of Sheffield, MA. My mother’s side of the family has the dairy farm and my father’s side of the family have owned and operated a fruit and vegetable farm stand for over 30 years now. My paternal grandfather is unable to run the farmstand due to his health, so my brother, Ricky, and I have taken over the family’s operation. We both work at the dairy farm with our mom part time and manage the farmstand on our own, full-time.

Carlwood Farm

Carlwood Farm

How many years have you had your farm store?
My dad’s parents opened the farmstand over 30 years ago, but Ricky, who is now 19, took over the operation 3 years ago. I worked there as my first job during the summer, when I was 13 until I was 16, and returned full time this year at the age of 24.

Boardman's Farm Stand

Boardman’s Farm Stand

What is your favorite part about growing and selling sweet corn?
We are now the third generation to be running the farmstand. Having a family run business our customers can relate back to us simply being a hard working family. Our farmstand does very well financially in the summer and fall, and people come from near and far for the famous “Boardman’s Sweet Corn.” We love being able to offer a fresh, locally grown product that our customers truly love.

Carlwood Farm

Doug Carlson, Sheri, Rene, Ricky, and Sandy Boardman, Cris Carlson of Carlwood Farm in Caanan, CT

What is your favorite way to cook the corn?
We have frequent family dinners with our extended family during the summertime, with sweet corn on the menu each time of course, and our favorite way to cook the large batch of corn is in a big metal pot that sits atop a propane cooker, which steams the corn to perfection in 10-12 minutes.

Deb Conant, Conant’s Riverside Farm and Conant’s Sweet Corn, Richmond, VT

Why did you start selling sweet corn?
We started selling sweet corn after I left the teaching profession to become a stay-at-home mom. It was a great way for me to work from home, and even more importantly, it created summer jobs for our kids.

Conant's Riverside Farm

Deb Conant, Conant’s Riverside Farm in Richmond, VT

How many years have you had your farm store?
This marks our 30th year of sales. When we first started, we marketed the corn on a picnic table, under a tree, in front of our house. Five years ago, we converted a space in our old and little barn to become our new sales area – no more enduring the beating sun, thunder and lightning, and rain as we waited on customers. Not only do we sell sweet corn, but we also offer our own ground beef, Cabot cheese products, and a variety of locally grown vegetables from other farm families.

Who helps picking your sweet corn every morning?
Over the years every one of our four kids, along with almost every one of their cousins, and many of their friends, have been a part of the picking crew. Many years back, we jokingly formed the “Corn Pickers of America” and in order to become a member, you have to help pick sweet corn – all of the kids who have ever picked here are proud to say they were/still are a member. Our grown ‘kids’ still show up, with their kids, when I am short-handed and need help. My son, Ransom, who works on the farm, says he loves corn season because of the energy and activity that comes with it.

Conant's Riverside Farm

Conant’s Riverside Farm

What is your favorite part about growing and selling sweet corn?
For me, the best part about the sweet corn business is having spent all these years with my ‘corn pickers’ every morning, be it 40 degrees or 80 degrees, pouring rain or muggy, dodging skunks or watching for signs of bears. I delight in listening to the conversations that take place as we pick, the good natured teasing, the signing and always the conversation that circles back to ‘what do you think we are going to have for breakfast when we are done picking?’ It is great to watch the friendships between our family throughout the generations strengthen over the time spent picking each morning. And now that my grandkids are going to be the next wave of ‘Corn Pickers of America’, I’m truly delighted.

Samantha Whittier of Whittier Farms, Sutton, MA

Why did you start selling sweet corn?
Wayne Whittier began selling sweet corn under a tree with a tackle box, used as an honor system cash box, for a 4-H project back in the early 1970’s. Over the years, his interest in sweet corn grew and so did the demand from customers, which lead to the opening of Whittier Farms Farmstand.

Whittier Farms

Samantha Whittier of Whittier Farms in Sutton, MA

What is your favorite part about growing and selling sweet corn?
It’s always funny to me to watch customers pick out their corn. Some people walk right up to the bin grab a quick dozen and head on their way; while others might take 15 minutes to find the 4 perfect ears for dinner, double checking over every ear in the bin before deciding. Then some people even shuck the corn right at our stand. But no matter what, when the kids hear they get to pick out the corn, their smiles light up the room.

What is your favorite way to cook corn?
Our family steams our corn on the stove, but we always serve it after the main meal. Everyone in the family knows that if you eat your corn, you can have ice cream. The youngest in the house is 16 now, so it’s just tradition to do it this way!


Allison Akins, Five Mile Farm, Lisbon, NY

Why did you start selling sweet corn?
The spring of my freshman year in college, my dad had this crazy idea of growing sweet corn. The deal was that if he grew it and the family helped pick it and I sold it, all of the profits would go directly to my college tuition. The goal my parents set for both my brother and me, when we were around 12 years old, was to make our way through college without student loans. So for three years now, I have been running two sweet corn stands, one being a self-serve stand and the other selling in a Lowe’s parking lot out of a pick-up truck. Some days I can sell 200 dozen and get home before dinnertime, but some will take longer. The rule is I can’t leave the parking lot until the whole truckload is sold out. Ironically this “crazy idea” that my dad had has been a great success – as I am entering my senior year at SUNY Cortland without a student loan.

Five Mile Farm

Allison Akins with her parents Mark and Becky of Five Mile Farm in Lisbon, NY

Who helps picking your sweet corn every morning?
It is a team effort. When it’s time to pick it is “all hands on deck!” Since I feed calves in the morning, my mother, father, brother and other farm employees start picking around 6:45 am, then when I finish my chores I head to the field to help. Since we have two stands, we try to fill two pick-up trucks with corn. I have been extremely fortunate to have my family’s help to execute this business, without them I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I have been.

What is your favorite part about growing and selling sweet corn?
Choosing just one thing I enjoy about the sweet corn is impossible. I enjoy working side by side with my family. For the few weeks we have corn it is a lot of hard work and long days, but the benefits of having sweet corn are worth it. The sweet corn itself is another aspect we enjoy; our family freezes corn once the selling season is over, so in the heart of winter we still have home-grown sweet corn for dinner. But, in all honestly, my favorite part about selling sweet corn is meeting the customers face-to-face. People will stop me when I’m out with my family just to tell me how amazing my sweet corn is, and nothing makes me happier than seeing customers come back day after day. I live in a wonderful community. I’m proud that I am able to produce a great product for them and they’re always excited to hear this is how I’m paying my way through college – a win-win situation.

Five Mile Farm

Five Mile Farm

What is your favorite way to cook the corn?
We don’t do it often, but I LOVE grilled corn on the cob. You have to soak the ears overnight (with the husks still on). Heat the grill up to around 350 degrees, and it will take 10 minutes. At the 5-minute mark, flip the ear over (the husks are still on) so it is cooked thoroughly. Be extra careful when eating it – it’s extremely hot, but so good! Make sure to smother it with Cabot butter!

Barstow's Longview Farm, Hadley, MA

Barstow’s Longview Farm, Hadley, MA

 

Stay tuned for another sweet corn post next week; we have more stories coming and if you’re in New England or upstate New York please take the time to check out the Cabot farm stands near you selling sweet corn and come by.


If you would like to learn more about Cabot Creamery Cooperative or take a virtual tour of some of our 1,200 farm families, click here.

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Comments

Kristin Haskins | July 31, 2015 | 7:17am

Sweet corn fresh off the stalk, and dripping in butter…life is sooooo sweet!

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