A sweet summer tradition [UPDATED]Published 10:58am Tuesday, September 4, 2012 Updated 10:58am Tuesday, September 4, 2012
With corn growing experience passed down from generation to generation, the Johnson farm near Pelican Rapids is known for having the best sweet corn around.
“People say it’s the best, but I wouldn’t know. I’ve never really eaten any other sweet corn,” said fourth-generation farmer Alex Johnson.
The house was built, and farming began more than 120 years ago. It started as 80 acres, but the farm has expanded to about 300 now. While many things have changed over the years, the farm has always been in the family.
Gladys moved to the farm when she was married more than 70 years ago. Her husband was born on the farm, and died on the farm just two months short of the couple’s 70-year anniversary.
“I like it here,” she said. “It’s been a good place to live.”
Nobody can remember when the Johnson farm began selling sweet corn in front of the house, but for many, it has become a Pelican Rapids August tradition to stop by the farm and stock up.
“We have sold sweet corn here for as long as I can remember,” said third generation farmer Greg Johnson. “We used to sell some to the local grocery store, but now it’s just a self service bin. People can stop by, pick out what they want and pay.”
The sweet corn season usually lasts from early August to early September. On a good Saturday, the Johnsons can sell 120 to 150 dozen ears, Alex said.
The corn is hand-picked fresh every morning and restocked throughout the day as needed. There is a machine that can do the job, but the Johnsons have decided to continue the hand-picking tradition.
“It’s a good summertime job for the kids,” Greg said.
Any time self service is offered, there is a risk that people will take advantage of the system and take more than they pay for, but Greg said that hasn’t been a problem.
“It amazes me how honest people are,” he said. “Just about everybody takes only what they pay for.”
A question many might ask is, “What is the secret to growing great sweet corn?”
Greg’s answer is simple. “I put a lot of turkey manure on it.”
While turkey manure might not sound like the most pleasant secret, the results are clear. People love the corn. The Johnsons have customers from Vergas, Dent, Fergus Falls, Perham and even some from as far away as Fargo who stop by every year.
“My family and I go a few times every year,” said Pelican Rapids resident Brenda Halbakken. “We know we’re getting fresh corn at a great price.”
Halbakken also said she likes the idea of the honors system, and giving back to local farmers.
The farm has now welcomed in a fifth generation, and Greg said it probably won’t be long before his granddaughter will be old enough continue the summer tradition of picking and selling sweet corn at the Johnson farm.