One of the summer’s most popular vegetables will be available from roadside stands from now through the end of August.
Alan Gates’ sweet corn will be returning to sell his signature yellow-and-white sweet corn to Crestonians and other loyal customers since 1978.
“The customers are what make it fun,” Gates said. “We get customers from all over and they send our corn all over. They’ve told us they send it to Alaska, Phoenix and a lot of corn goes to Colorado.”
For their first few years, Gates and his wife Nancy sold sweet corn under a covered parking lot that was west of Fareway before moving to their current location on Adams Street across from the BP gas station.
Gates said he first started selling sweet corn to make a few extra dollars to take to the Iowa State Fair.
“We have a lot of repeat business,” Gates said. “That is one thing that really helps keep us going.”
They will have their 1954 Chevy truckbed loaded and ready to sell ears for $4.50 a dozen.
The Gates family will also have another stand off of Sumner Street on the northeast corner of Ringgold Street. They are also hoping to add a “new” 1947 GM truck to sell out of at this location.
“We try to be uptown by 7:30 a.m. and to the other location by 9 a.m.,” Gates said. “Then we shuttle corn back and forth until we are sold out for the day.”
Growing sweet corn
While area row crop farmers have struggled with a cold start to the growing season followed by severe storm weather including heavy winds, rain and hail, Gates said his sweet corn stand was close to perfect until July 7.
Strong winds off a storm front knocked down stalks in the plot south of the Gates family farm, which will make harvesting the corn a more tedious task.
“We will still gather as much as we can,” Gates said. “This year has been a little different. We are starting a week earlier, all this rain and heat has moved the corn up.”
Gates grows a variety of sweet corn called ambrosia, which is known for having a good germination rate.
“It is consistent, has good vigor and it comes up out of the ground even like field corn,” Gates said. “We also like the way it hangs in the field. It gives you a little more window of opportunity (during harvest).”
Gates sweet corn is a complete family operation. Alan and Nancy’s children — Alex, Anna Jean, Alizabeth, Andrea and Antonia — help harvest and sell the sweet corn every year.
Alan’s parents, Al and Mary Jean, have also helped since the beginning. Al will celebrate his 90th birthday this month.
The Gates family has also had help from several families and friends over the years including Judy Oshel, Faith Johnston and Sandy, Gavin and Hunter Sickles.
“We also have a neighbor (Mary Watkin) who knows that when we come in from the field we are hot, dirty and tired, so she comes over and has a hot breakfast ready for us every day we are out picking,” Gates said.
Watkin makes a variety of meals, but her signatures are rice, bacon and eggs or her french toast casserole.