By Tom Collins
MCNAB/BRAESIDE — A delayed start to the sweet corn harvest meant many growers missed out on the most profitable two weeks of the year.
Jim McGregor of McGregor’s Produce at McNab/Braeside in Renfrew County normally starts harvest on July 15. The wet, cold spring and early summer delayed corn growth, and picking didn’t begin until July 30, the latest start ever in McGregor’s 40-plus years of growing sweet corn. He estimates he normally sells 20 to 25 per cent of his season’s sweet corn in those two weeks.
“We’ll never gain that back,” he said, adding he planted 50 of his normal 80 acres. “Even if it’s an open fall with no frost, which is always a possibility, you just won’t get it back. The long weekend in August is a big weekend for us. This year, that corn wasn’t ready.”
McGregor plants into plastic: A machine rolls a plastic cover on the ground, punches a hole the size of a quarter every few inches, and plants the seed into that hole. The plastic keeps the warmth — and more importantly, the moisture — in the soil, and allows for faster germination.
There was so much rain this year that much of the water rolled off the plastic into the rows as opposed to staying in the ground. That may have actually kept some of the corn from getting too much water.
Many sweet corn farmers use successive plantings — planting during different times of the spring to ensure there’s sweet corn throughout the summer and fall. But the spring rain prevented many farmers from doing that.
Erin McLean, of McLean Berry Farm at Lakefield near Peterborough, said while the sweet corn season was pretty good at the end of August, the start of the month was a different story. Her farm started picking their first cobs just before the August long weekend, two weeks behind normal.
“Things didn’t seem to come up very evenly,” she said. “We replanted some fields because they were not germinating and some second plantings were ripened before first plantings.”