Sweet Corn Countdown

Jeff Kushkowski, Wheatsfield Board of Directors

Growing up my favorite thing about the month of May was that the end of school was around the corner and I’d be “free” for the summer! My current day job is working for Iowa State, so while I still look forward to the end of school, I have some other favorite things about the month.

When May rolls around the weather is finally nice enough for walks in the park or a weekend picnic. I’m always surprised by how quickly we go from full-on darkness in the morning to the sun scratching at the horizon at 5:15 a.m. Flowers start to bloom, pollen is in the air, and my lawn is soon to be out-of-control. It’s also the time to begin my annual “countdown to sweet corn” and calculate whether I have enough in my freezer to get me through until mid-July.

My favorite part of May as I’ve aged, though, is the farmers’ market. Every Saturday starting in May there’s an explosion of farmers’ markets across Iowa that signals the start of a new growing season. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture, there are over 200 farmers’ markets in Iowa that provide direct marketing outlets for fresh locally grown produce, baked goods, and a variety of products from including eggs, meat, cheese, and fresh flowers. I enjoy going to the market in Ames on a Saturday and reconnect with vendors I haven’t seen since the winter.

Reconnecting with vendors at the farmers’ market reminds me of the importance of community connections to local agriculture. The local farmer depends on the support of the public for their livelihood, just as the public relies on the farmer for local, sustainable products.

Your assignment is to go a farmers’ market and celebrate the beginning of the growing season and the return of warmer weather. There are plenty of markets to pick from in Central Iowa. Ames is the one most readers are familiar with, but there are plenty of others – Bondurant, Maxwell, Johnston, Waukee, Pleasant Hill, and the biggest one in the area, Des Moines.  While you’re at it, you can start your own sweet corn countdown!