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Sweet Corn Available Earlier Than Normal

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Sweet corn lovers can satisfy their cravings with Iowa's finest sooner than normal this year.

An unusually warm March allowed farmers to plant weeks earlier than usual, resulting in sweet corn that will be sold as soon as Friday.

"I've never known anyone to plant that early," state horticulturist Mike Bevins said of the St. Patrick's Day plantings by Mike Penick in central Iowa.

Bevins said most farmers are happy to sell sweet corn by the Fourth of July.

"June 22 that's certainly the earliest it's ever been," he said.

That's when Penick, of rural Carlisle, plans to begin selling sweet corn at his stand near Des Moines. He will have another 700 dozen ears to sell at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market on Saturday, for $6 per dozen, the same price he's sold it for years.

Eastern Iowans may have to wait a bit longer to find locally grown sweet corn.

"I took a chance and I planted 2 acres in March and it didn't freeze off," said Gary Knight, of Knight's Sweet Corn.

Knight predicted selling corn at his stands in the Cedar Rapids area in about two weeks. He staggers plantings to extend the season.

"It's out there and it's growing and it's hot," Knight said of his crop northeast of Marion. "Corn likes it hot."

Lack of rain, however, has impeded that progress, because the kernels need moisture to fill out, he said.

Knight, who has grown sweet corn for 15 years and will have 70 acres of it this year, plans to irrigate his crops for the first time this summer.

The Iowa City Farmers Market will have sweet corn by the Fourth of July if not sooner, market coordinator Tammy Neumann said.

Iowans who can't wait can find sweet corn sold at stands in the Corridor, but there's a chance it's not locally grown.

Traeh Jensen and Jennifer Dougherty sold sweet corn from Indiana and tomatoes from Arkansas at a Double S Produce stand this week on Center Point Road NE.

The two said corn from Muscatine should be available before the Fourth of July.

Boiled corn on the cob may be traditional, but Penick has another method.

"I usually eat some every morning out in the field, raw, to make sure it's tasting good," he said, noting that he'd tried some Thursday morning. "It just tasted like early corn. It tasted good."

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