“A big year” for Olathe sweet corn as pickers pluck first ears of the season
The sun’s first rays are spilling over Jumbo Mountain when the team clambers aboard the sprawling corn harvester.
John Harold joins the pickers as they twist his “Olathe Sweet” sweet corn from the stalks. It’s barely 6 a.m. and the first harvest of the season is underway for the nationally celebrated ears. It’s the happiest moment for Harold, who turns 80 a week from Sunday.
“The ground is a little hard,” he says. “Makes ‘em harder to snap.”
It hasn’t rained for two months. The Uncompahgre River Valley is exceptionally dry. A heat wave is pushing midday temps past 100. But Harold, who has been harvesting his famous corn for 34 years, is giddy. No rain means no mud, he says. He’s got almost 180 workers ready for a three-month parade of picking and packing. The warm weather, it turns out, makes for some juicy, sweet corn.
“Everything is early. Not just the corn, but the onions, the hay is early, too,” he says, his head down as he nimbly squeaks ear from stalk and tosses them into a truck bed. “It’s not just super warm days. You gotta understand that because of the warm nights the crop is growing more nights than normal. We are getting 24 hours a day worth of growth.”
Everything is good news for Harold, who sells his entire harvest — more than 700,000 containers this year, roughly 33.6 million ears — to the 2,757-store Kroger Co., the parent to King Soopers and City Market stores. And this pandemic-addled season, as more folks are eschewing restaurants and eating at home, Kroger upped its annual order by 80,000 containers, or nearly 4 million ears.
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