Sweet corn put Olathe on the map, but seeds of economic revival didn’t take
Sweet corn put the town of Olathe on the national map. But that culinary cachet hasn’t translated to much in the way of economic development.
Curious corn-loving travelers will occasionally wander around the ragged block that makes up the core of downtown in the “Hub of the Uncompahgre Valley.” They will find the B&C White Kitchen, the Jug liquor store, the Sudsy Pup dog grooming shop and Olathe True Value Hardware.
They will also find five Latino-owned businesses, including a bakery and a butcher shop and a slew of storefronts that advertise services to send money home to Mexico. Many of the agricultural workers who have come to Olathe over the decades to harvest sweet corn and other crops have settled down in Olathe. The population of 1,800 is now 58 percent Latino. Spanish is heard as often as English on the streets. This change is not universally popular in this conservative, Trump-voting area.
The demand for Olathe’s famous sweet corn is falling nationally. The “buy local” movement has cut into the demand for Olathe sweet corn. The corn is still shipped out to 30 states — from Anchorage to Roanoke. But, this year, acreage is being cut back as more consumers want to eat sweet corn grown close to home. Kroger and Walmart still buy more than 90 percent of the corn grown around Olathe, but both have cut back on their orders this year.
Last year, some growers had to leave some sweet corn on the stalks because supply outstripped demand.
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Since MIRA launched on July 29, 2018, it has recorded 140 days of operation. A total of 2,812 people have received services or been connected to other resources through MIRA as it visited 40 neighborhoods in Eagle County.