Ears of corn bigger at Olathe fest

Courteney Northrup, 5, right, and her sister, Brittany, 6, chow down on buttery ears of corn Saturday at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival in the Olathe Community Park. The sisters are from Grand Junction. This is the 20th anniversary of the festival.

Usually only smaller ears of corn are available in time for the yearly Olathe Sweet Corn Festival during the first weekend in August.

But with crop production about three and a half weeks ahead of schedule, according to festival Director Bobbi Sale, this year festival-goers chomped on the big ears.

“It’s a good year” for Olathe’s corn crop, Sale said. “The yield is good, the product is good.”

Sale said corn growers in the Olathe area have been affected by the same drought that has hampered crops in the Midwest, which helped increase corn prices for August delivery to a record high $8.01 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, according to the Des Moines Register.

Olathe corn farmers have been able to manage a lack of water this year through water reserves and have benefited from rainy days in July, Sale said.

“They were thrilled to have water. It kind of messed up their picking, but they needed it,” Sale said.

She added farmers in the area also benefit from contracts with City Market that guarantee sale to the grocer for much of the Olathe crop before seeds even go in the ground.

North and south of Olathe, Delta and Montrose typically receive 4.03 inches and 6.22 inches of rain, respectively, in the first seven months of the year, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. The Weather Service doesn’t track Olathe rainfall.

Delta received 2.57 inches of rainfall through July, while Montrose has received 3.33 inches of rain so far this year, according to the Weather Service. Those numbers put the Western Slope, along with 55 percent of the contiguous United States, as of the end of June in “moderate to severe” drought, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Although Sale said mountain snow runoff is more of a concern to Olathe farmers than rain, farmers are concerned about water next summer. In April, when snowpack is usually at its peak in Colorado, high elevation snowpack was at about a third of normal levels.

“They really want a good snowfall in the mountains,” Sale said.

For now, sweet corn enthusiasts and festival attendees Friday and Saturday enjoyed the taste of this year’s crop.

Ed Ulibarri of Montrose, who said he has handed out the free corn offered at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival for the past 10 years, said the corn this weekend is some of the biggest he’s seen in early August.

“I think it tastes better, too,” he said. “It’s a little sweeter and there are bigger kernels to bite into.”


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