The good news for sweet corn lovers is that the crop showed up a little early this year.
The bad news is that the season might not last long.
The unusually warm spring paired with the unusually dry and hot summer had sweet corn farmers picking ears a few weeks early this year, but if the weather continues, some farmers worry the season could be cut short.
“If it’s available, get it because we don’t know how long it’s going to last,” said Patty Marco, who helps run Wiltse Farm in Maple Park with her siblings.
Marco said the farm has been in the family for four generations and this is the earliest she can remember picking sweet corn. Last year, they picked in mid-July and the year before, they picked in late July.
Bruce Phillips, who runs Phillips Family Farm with his wife, Lally, between Hinckley and Sandwich, said his corn is only “sort of” ahead of schedule. He said in the past, it’s been ready by the Fourth of July and would have been ready much earlier this year if May had been warmer.
Still, the hot, dry weather isn’t doing sweet corn growers any favors.
“These ears are quite small. With no rain, they won’t get any bigger,” he said. “If it stays extremely hot, it could go fast.”
Phillips farms 10 acres of sweet corn and said he hopes to have enough corn to supply the Sandwich Fair in early September. He plants continuously and just planted more sweet corn this week, which he expects to get him through fair season.
Phillips and Marco said they started selling sweet corn Thursday.
Tricia Braid, communications director with the Illinois Corn Growers Association, said the dry weather northern Illinois has experienced this summer isn’t uncommon, but said some farmers have compared this growing season with the drought of 1988.
“I think it’s been quite a number of years since these drought conditions have been as widespread,” she said. “It’s so persistent.”
John Weberpal of Sycamore grows about 11⁄2 acres of sweet corn that’s mainly for his family, but he also sells sweet corn from a small roadside stand. He said he didn’t know if his family would have much to sell this season.
“Anything that’s supposed to be growing with water isn’t doing too well,” he said. “A little bit of rain will go a long way.”
Sweet corn isn’t the only crop feeling the heat.
Marco said the June strawberry crop didn’t even come in this year because it was so hot. Phillips said his pear and peach trees usually have fruit on them by this time of year, but he said he thinks the spring frost might have stunted the trees’ growth.
“It’s a weather issue, whether it’s vegetable or field crops,” Marco said.