Sweet corn season has come again and, seemingly, gone just as fast. The hot weather has brought many local crops to maturity early, and some growers will be selling their last ears of the season today.
Area growers also say the heat has been a welcome change from last year's excessive rain, and that Midwest drought conditions have had little impact on their crops.
"Last year I lost five acres and got flooded out, but this year makes up for last year and made a profit for this year," said Paul Spletzer of Spletzer Farm in Newton Falls.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Chet Evans of Warren has his arms full of bags of sweet corn as he leaves Lutz Farms in Warren Township Thursday.
"For me, it's been an exceptional crop, because we got the rain when we needed it, and I've got clay down here, so that holds water in better."
Spletzer said the excessive heat only grew his crops faster, moving their first pick up by two weeks to July 14, the earliest he can remember picking a crop since his father began the family business in the 1960s.
But it hasn't been all sweetness for Spletzer. While fuel and standard operating costs have been higher, the hot weather has brought other expenditures. He had to spend for a 6-inch electric perimeter fence to thwart the relentless attacks by raccoons. Storms on July 4 also flattened the first crop, and picking became a matter of digging corn out of the broken stalks.
Despite those and $200 spent on new seed varieties, he said keeps his price competitive to make sure he's not driven out by the other growers with bigger crops.
"It's funny, a lot of people will pay $3 to $4 per bushel for field corn versus $4 to $5 for a bushel of really tasty sweet corn," he said.
John Parker of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau said most crops that survived the heat should be good.
"There's some good sweet corn around right now. Growers say how long they'll have good corn around depends on the rain, but all this heat has made the corn very sweet," he said.
Carl Angiuli of Angiuli Greenhouse in Canfield said the weather had no effect at all on his crop, as they use irrigation to keep the field well dampened.
"We've had a good crop. It's been a great year for us for sweet corn. (Irrigation) makes more work for us, but it's how we get a consistent crop every year," he said.
This year, the dryer conditions let them plant around March 22, unlike the very wet 2011 season that forced them to wait for late April.
Angiuli said his costs went up this year because more fuel was needed to run the generators for the irrigation system to beat the heat and dryness, but his prices remain the same. His crop, like Spletzer's, came on earlier, and so he's sold more corn to offset some expenses.
He said the irrigation has been key for many area growers.
"Everybody with irrigation has had good yield," he said.
So also says David McMaster of Columbiana. "It's been very interesting with the hot and dry, but we have water sources available and we've been irrigating it. Most crops have have had four applications of 1 1/4 inch.''
He said his crop is good, but like others, his productions costs went up. And not all of his crop was salvageable.
"We had a couple patches and corners we couldn't get water to and it's just poor quality," he said.
McMaster said his corn also grew faster in the heat and they're nearly two-third finished with their picking and sales. He said he's been able to maintain an average price too.
But said he expects that growers with no irrigation are not faring as well.
Harvey Lutz of Lutz Farms in Warren Township disagrees.
"We do several plantings and a few in the middle got beaten up, but it's still a good crop and a good yield. We had a few key rains that really saved us," he said. "I don't irrigate and I'm glad I don't. It wouldn't have paid for the cost."