All ears

After a slow start, the area sweet corn crop should improve as summer goes on.

“The first sweet corn harvested in the summer of 2013 was of lower quality than in past years, but the mid-to-late season sweet corn varieties should be of excellent quality,” said Thomas G. Ford, area commercial horticulture educator for Penn State Extension.

Kelly Baronner, co-owner of Baronner’s Farm Market, Hollidaysburg, said it has been a challenging growing season.

“May’s weather was unusually cool. Coupled with a very wet June, that meant the early season corn had a reduced yield. It was a wet and cool pattern. The temperature fluctuated, and that made it very challenging and caused problems. The wet weather caused some problems with early pollination,” Baronner said.

“Much of the early sweet corn had smaller than normal ears. The weather also played havoc with planting schedules resulting in gaps in sweet corn production on some farms,” Ford said.

Sam Weyant, owner/operator of Sam Weyant’s Berry and Vegetable Farms, Claysburg, said despite the weather, his sweet corn crop is doing well, but frost in May did cause some damage.

“The frost got me in May. One night it went down to 22 degrees, and I lost 20 to 30 percent in a five-acre field,” Weyant said.

Weyant said the warm weather in late June and early July helped his crop.

“The 90-degree temperatures make it grow so fast, you could hear it grow at night,” Weyant said.

“When it was so wet [humid] and hot I had one week where it grew 5 inches,” Weyant said. “I couldn’t believe how fast it was growing.”

The local crop was a bit later than usual.

“Last year we started selling July 2, this year it was around July 11,” Baronner said.

Baronner’s expects to sell its sweet corn into September from its North Juniata Street market.

Baronner credits her husband, co-owner Bob, for taking care of the 20 varieties of sweet corn they grow.

“He is very vigilant to see they are picked exactly when they should be. There is one variety that is the best tasting corn. It is so sweet and creamy, but if you pick it one day too late, it is terrible,” Baronner said. “It is all handpicked; we never pick it with a machine. It is promptly hydrocooled as soon as it is picked and brought up to the market and hand graded so the sugar level stays high.”

Weyant grows about 100,000 dozen ears of corn per season on 80 acres. He sells most of his corn to McAneny Brothers Inc., an Ebensburg wholesale food distributor, and some to Leighty’s Farm Market in Newry.

“I ship 800 dozen a day to McAneny Brothers five days a week,” Weyant said.

Weyant said he has had a good crop this summer because his corn did not get stressed.

“We had enough rain; it just kept growing and didn’t get stressed out. Usually when it gets dry, the corn gets stressed out,” Weyant said. “We got all of our planting in on time and did not miss any.”

In addition to the sweet corn, Baronner said this year’s weather will delay tomatoes, watermelons and cantalopes, which will be ready around mid-August.

Ford said alfalfa on many farms has performed very well, and hay crops look good although it had been a challenge at times to get it cut and baled. He also said the present cool weather pattern is going to spur an outbreak of late blight on tomatoes and potatoes in the area.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.