A sweet harvest

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Sweet corn harvest began last week near Gowrie in southern Webster County. Lakeside Foods of Owatonna, Minnesota, contracted nearly 500 acres in the area this year.

GOWRIE — Harvest began a little earlier than normal in fields near Gowrie in southern Webster County last week.

Lakeside Foods, of Owatonna, Minnesota, brought a crew of two corn pickers, tractors with wagons and a fleet of semis to tackle the urgency of a timely harvest of sweet corn.

This is the first time the company has grown sweet corn in the area, Larry Maher, ag manager with Lakeside Foods, said.

The logistics of growing sweet corn and getting it hauled to the plant in Owatonna in a timely manner just made sense, according to Maher.

“We are brand spanking new in the area,” he said. “We needed an earlier start in our plant for sweet corn production and that would give us that and it would also be the least cost for our trucking.”

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
A corn picker dumps sweet corn into a wagon during a sweet corn harvest near Gowrie recently.

There were close to 500 acres of sweet corn raised in the Gowrie area this year, with another 350 acres raised near Clarion, and Maher said there was another 160 acres planted into sweet corn in north central Iowa.

Not only did the locations seem to work well for Lakeside Foods, but Maher said it also helps to provide a niche market for growers, as well as leaving a window of opportunity to get a jump on any fall field work.

“I think it works well on both ends — ours and the growers,” he said. “And if they should happen to need a place to spread manure or have a tiling project to do, this fits very well with their plan of action too.”

Dan Nordin, a Gowrie-area farmer, contracted 140 acres of sweet corn this year that was harvested last Thursday and plans on seeding a mixture of oats, turnips and radishes in order to provide his farmland with cover throughout the rest of summer and fall.

Growing season challenges

As with all producers this year, the spring also brought challenges for the sweet corn planting.

“At first when we were planting, it was a little nerve-racking because it was spread out over about two and a half weeks, but because we had a little warmer weather, it shortened the time frame between the first field and the last field,” said Maher. “We count heat units versus counting the days. We have different temperatures from year to year, so it is best to go by heat units rather than an X number of days.”

He added if the results show the acres they contracted for sweet corn are bountiful, they will be back.

“We just hope that it works out on both ends — on our end and the farmer’s end,” he said. “If it does, we will be looking for a few more acres.”

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