A slight delay in the availablility of the summer staple people are "hot" for may mean an extended season.
CANANDAIGUA — Knee high by the Fourth of July?
Seems the spring 2017 precipitation levels followed the old adage, but sweet corn — let’s just say if you have it on your Fourth of July picnic plate, it’s most likely not locally grown.
A year ago, the region was plagued by drought conditions; this year, blame the wet weather for the bad news on a perennial summer favorite.
Every year around this time, the phone’s ringing off the hook, said Chipper White, of White’s Farm Market in East Bloomfield.
“Everybody’s hot for sweet corn,” White said. “It’s a passion here.”
Russ Welser, agricultural team leader with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County, said the earliest of the fresh, farm market sweet corn is typically available by now. The same is true of some summer squashes.
The constant rainy conditions kept farmers from their fields during the planting time earlier in the season. The wet weather also presented some germination issues, White added.
But in the end, an extended season for sweet corn may be the product of the seemingly endless April — and May — showers, Welser said.
“Everything is kind of delayed,” Welser said. “When it starts to come on, I think we’ll have sweet corn stay through September and maybe into October.”
This season comes on the heels of a rebound in sweet corn prices experienced in 2016. According to a 2017 United States Department of Agriculture report on vegetables, sweet corn in New York was a $44 million business, up from $31 million in 2015 and on par with 2014 numbers.
And it’s big business locally.
White uses a trick of the trade of sorts to try for early sweet corn on the Fourth, which according to a preview Daily Messenger article typically produces thousands of ears of corn by the holiday. That means more profit earlier, when all goes well.
On about 10 acres of the White farmland, seeds are planted early and protected by a plastic covering, creating a “greenhouse” effect, he said.
“If it’s sunny and 50 outside, it’s sunny and 80 under there,” White said. “It gives the corn motivation.”
Depending on the year, growing by this process means sweet corn at the family market on the holiday. Sometimes.
“One out of three years you might hit it,” said White, who expects a pretty brisk business anyway.
As anyone who meanders through the produce sections of the large grocery stores knows, sweet corn is available — but the product is trucked in from elsewhere, Welser said.
Like milk and eggs at the grocery store, sweet corn is the kind of staple that keeps customers coming to groceries, farm markets and roadside stands, Welser said.
“It’s definitely a crop that many folks look forward to,” Welser said. “Just a little longer.”