2017 - Volume #41, Issue #5, Page #08[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Sweet Corn Growers Built A Loyal National Customer Base
“We started raising sweet corn in the early 1980’s,” recalls Larson. “We were a young couple with a lot of debt and needed a way to stay on the farm. The first year we planted an acre, and it grew from there.”
In the 1990’s their 2 children joined the business, running a vegetable stand at a local shopping mall parking lot 6 days a week. Corn and vegetables were also marketed at nearby farmers markets. Once the kids left home, Larson and his wife cut back to just the farmers markets. They also reduced their sweet corn acres from a high of 30 to 6 acres today.
Along the way they built a fan base of customers all over the country who are hooked on Larson’s Premium Sweet Corn.
“This year we’ve had people from California, Arizona, Florida and other distant states stop in to pick up sweet corn,” says Larson. “They’ll take it home with them or ask us to ship it for them.”
The Larsons have shipped corn as far as remote native villages in Alaska. One of their most famous and longest-term customers is the wife of Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. Born and raised in the Willmar area, she returns home several times each summer.
“When she leaves, she packs up a suitcase full of our sweet corn for Peter and his buddies,” says Larson.
When FARM SHOW visited the Larson stand in late July, a dozen ears traveled home. Even 4 days later, the corn was delicious. Larson says the corn he plants with SR2 genetics has up to 35 percent sucrose, which is why it lasts and ships so well. The U.S. Post Office is another reason the corn can be shipped successfully.
“You can put 14 ears in one of their Priority Mail boxes and ship it across the country for $7,” says Larson. “It will arrive the next day or the day after and be fine for eating. We pick fresh the day we sell it, but with the high sugar and low starch conversion, it is good for 4 to 5 days if kept in the husk and refrigerated.”
Sweeter corn is one thing that has changed in the business, as new hybrids are constantly introduced. The price he charges has changed as well, from the $1.60 per dozen when he started to $7 per dozen today.
This year the Larsons started planting April 7th. Three weeks later they planted again. In May it was every 10 days and then once a week in June with the last planting July 3rd.
“Our earliest corn was ready for market around July 20th, and our last corn will be ready around the third week in September,” says Larson.
While it makes for a long summer, Larson says the payback is more than monetary. “It’s like old home week at the first market,” he says. “Customers get to know you almost as family. You develop friends among other market gardeners, and it becomes a way of life.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Larry A. Larson, 5479 15th St. S.E., Willmar, Minn. 56201 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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