Sweet corn season sees strong summer sales

Aug 20 2020

The Recorder, August 12, 2020. By ZACK DeLUCA, Staff Writer

DEERFIELD — Each year, families look forward to backyard summer barbecues and the fresh taste of local sweet corn. Despite weather-related delays to the start of the growing season, farmers say sales have been particularly strong this summer.

The Ciesluk Farm in Deerfield specializes in corn, and grows the crop on 120 acres. Mike Antonellis, who runs the farm and farm stand with his sister, Jen, said the farm plants corn every week in a different field so they can harvest corn from July into fall.

This year, Antonellis said they missed the coveted Fourth of July harvest by just one day.

“We ended up picking on the fifth of July,” he said.

While they missed the holiday sales, Antonellis said they actually didn’t expect to harvest until about July 10, because it had been such a cold spring. Fortunately, he said, the warm weather picked up, and stayed up, in time for an earlier harvest.

Even if there is little substantial rainfall, Antonellis also said their farmland retains enough water so they don’t have to irrigate. He said one week this summer provided 6 inches of rainfall, and then days of warm weather.

“That definitely made things pop,” he said. “Corn likes it hot. It likes 90-degree heat, as long as it gets some rain here and there.”

Antonellis said the corn season typically lasts until mid- to late October. He said corn can survive in 30-degree temperatures for a few hours at a time, but if it drops below 28 degrees one night, it could kill the whole plant.

Gary Kolakoski of Kolakoski Farm in Deerfield said he also experienced a delayed season due to the spring’s weather conditions.

“It was late planting, a late start like everybody else,” Kolakoski said. “The main thing is it was dry. It didn’t germinate.”

Now, after some moderate rainfall, Kolakoski said the crop is doing well. He said the heavy farmland is able to retain moisture for extended periods of time.

Dean Landale, owner of Bars Farm in Deerfield, said sales for all of the farm’s products have been above average this summer. He guesses it could be because people are eating at home more often.

“The weather’s been on our side as well,” he said. “We haven’t had the rain like we did a couple years ago. Two years ago everything got flooded.”

Local varieties

Bars Farm, on Mill Village Road, grows 7 acres of sweet corn, Landale said. Its farm stand is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. The season starts with a variety of sweet corn called Sweetness, before switching to its main season crop, a triple sweet variety called Pursuit.

The appeal of sweet corn is noted in the names of certain corn varieties. Butter and Sugar is one of the earliest and most popular in the Franklin County area. Others include Crisp ’n’ Sweet, Sugar Dots, Sugar and Gold, and Honey and Cream.

Ciesluk Farm Stand at 564 Greenfield Road is famously known for its Silver King Corn, which produces fully white kernels. In addition to the Silver King, Antonellis said this year’s early harvests of the bi-colored Butter and Sugar have also been growing well so far.

The local favorites are among the hundreds, or even thousands, of varieties of corn. The explanation for the multitude of varieties is that while corn, like wheat and other grains, evolved from grass, it has been cultivated for so long that all the kinds we now have are the result of human manipulation.

The Kolakoski Farm Stand at 373 Greenfield Road is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Scott Kolakoski said this summer has seen slightly better than average sales for vegetables and the “super sweet corn that everybody seems to love.”

“People have been asking for a month or so when our corn would be ready. I guess they’d been waiting for it,” Kolakoski said.

Like Landale, he attributed the above average sweet corn sales to the fact that families are limited in their options for going out to eat due to COVID19 restrictions, and may be home grilling or barbecuing more often. As far as other vegetables go, he said this could be because people are trying to avoid time indoors in crowded grocery stores.

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