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Recent rain gives Alle-Kiski corn needed boost

| Friday, July 23, 2010

Nature's delicate formula of sun, rain and fertilizer needed to grow sweet corn was off until recently, according to local farmers.

"We needed that last rain that we got because the corn wasn't growing," said Doris Townsend of Townsend Brothers Fruit Farm in South Bend Township, Armstrong County. "We just started picking our first field, so we'll have it for a while."

The rain she mentioned was July 14 when 0.17-inch was measured at the National Weather Service station at the Natrona Lock and Dam.

From June 30 up to that point, no rainfall was measured at the lock, but there was an abundance of sun and humidity.

Since the first three days of July, the high temperature every day has not fallen under 81 degrees.

For farmers, last week's rain and the small amounts that fell up until Thursday's downpour were more than welcome.

They said it has gotten many cornfields ready to harvest.

"It's coming along right now," said Ed Misera, a farmer from Frazer. "I think it's going to be good crop."

"So far, it has been going very, very well," said Therese Pajer, who with husband Tom sells sweet corn they raise at their Buffalo Township farm. "The weather had been very dry, but the rains we had recently have helped. Irrigation is not the same as God-given rain."

Kevin Blair, who runs John and Gerry's Fruit Market along Freeport Road in Springdale Township, buys corn from area farmers. Blair said the lack of rain is noticeable in the small corncobs that has been prevalent until recently.

"Now that we've had some rain the past five or seven days," Blair said, "you can see it is sizing up."

Blair said that it now seems like a normal crop, but the weather still poses a lot of variables for the growing season.

Pajer and Townsend said they sold the early, smaller ears that Blair referred to, for about $5 for a bushel. They said many people don't think they are getting their money's worth by buying the smaller ears based on the usual dozen lots, but it was just as sweet.

"I always taste it before I sell it," Misera said. "If it's not good, I feed it to my cattle."

Townsend said that when corn is ready, the picking can't be put off. For that reason, she hopes that some of their larger supermarket clients will be able to sell off the current stores out-of-state corn that they have warehoused.

"I think it is going to be pretty abundant this year," Pajer said. "Hopefully, we won't have too many more dry spells. I know people hate this humidity, but it is fantastic for vegetables."

"The last few years haven't been bad years, but the thing is that the humidity this year really pushes these fields," she added.

Blair is hoping that Pajer's prediction is on the mark. He said thus far this season, he has been selling corn for a dollar more per dozen than the $2.99 it sold for last year. He said that's because last year it was more abundant.

"Hopefully, in two weeks, I would like to be down to $2.99," Blair said.

Additional Information:

A-K corn prices

Farmers around the Alle-Kiski Valley say their sweet corn crops are starting to take off thanks to recent rains.

Here's a sampling of corn prices in the Valley:

• Community Market, Lower Burrell: $3.96 per dozen

• Giant Eagle, New Kensington: $3.96 per dozen

• John and Gerry's Fruit Market, Springdale Township: $3.99 per dozen

• Misera Farm, Frazer: $5 for 13 ears

• Pajer's Farm Market, Buffalo Township: $4.99 for 15 ears

• Townsend Brothers Fruit Farm, South Bend: $4 per dozen

Additional Information:

Big consumers

There are plenty of cornfields throughout Pennsylvania, but much of the corn harvested will never makes it to kitchens or summer cookouts.

Mark Linstedt, agricultural statistician for the state Department of Agriculture, is forecasting that corn will be grown in 14,400 acres this year that is destined to be sold as fresh .

He said that figure doesn't include corn grown for the canned or frozen markets.

Meanwhile, he said 1.35 million acres of corn have been planted that is destined to become feed for livestock.

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