Growing conditions mixed for sweet corn crop

sweet cornLike bicolor corn, this year’s sweet corn season is a mix.  In Virginia Beach, Mike Cullipher said his sweet corn crop “looks really good overall.”

Cullipher and his father, Louis, grow six different sweet corn varieties on Cullipher Farms. He said they planted the corn a little later this year because of cold weather, but the crop is growing quickly. He anticipates picking the first ears this weekend.

“We have been fortunate to have just the right amount of rain for the last six weeks,” Cullipher noted. His family sells the corn at their on-farm market, two farmers’ markets and through a CSA program.

Botetourt County farmer Michael Beahm said cold weather followed by excessive rain made it difficult to plant his 2 acres of sweet corn this season. “I just finished my second planting Saturday,” Beahm said. “The first planting is as poor-looking as any corn I’ve raised.”

Despite that, he anticipates the first crop of white sweet corn to be ready for picking in about three weeks.

“Sweet corn is grown throughout Virginia and the white variety is especially popular. Fresh, local sweet corn is typically available between mid-June and mid-October,” noted Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Bob French, part-owner of his family’s Sunny Side Farms in Cumberland County, said the weather hasn’t hindered his crop this year, and he anticipates his sweet corn will be ready to pick this weekend as well.

French’s family has been growing about 10 acres of sweet corn for the past 30 years. They currently plant the most up-to-date variety of white sweet corn and sell it at their farm and at markets in Dillwyn and Powhatan.

“Our customers have been asking for three weeks when the corn will be ready,” French remarked.

Virginians like their summer sweet corn. Cullipher said people like sweet corn because “it’s the true taste of summer.”

He went on to explain that other crops associated with summer—like tomatoes—have a longer season because of greenhouse and high-tunnel production. “Sweet corn is really difficult to grow outside the warm summer months” so it’s only available primarily during the summer months.

French added that customers buying local sweet corn know that it’s fresh. “We pick before dawn and when our customers buy our corn, it’s just a few hours after we’ve picked it.”

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