ROCHELLE — This past week, Jeff Rainwater got a call from a customer that said he’d been buying his family’s sweet corn for 30 years.
“He remembered when we used to sell just off Illinois Route 38 in town when our field in that area was larger before the business park back there,” Rainwater said. “I thanked him. People like that are why I’m still in business. Moments like that are why I farm. Hearing stuff like that makes me feel good.”
Rainwater Farms started selling sweet corn for the season on July 22 and opened its stands at 17557 Twombly Road and just off Illinois Route 64 in Kings. They’re open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rainwater estimates the season will last until around Aug. 25 and possibly Labor Day weekend if the weather stays mild.
The demand for sweet corn at the Rainwater Farms has been “pretty high” in the past week. Rainwater believes that may be due to opening up before other area sellers. He does his best to get sweet corn ready for sale as early as possible in the year.
“Maybe because we had a colder spring and others waited,” Rainwater said. “I’ll gamble a little bit at the beginning of the season to try to be open earlier. My first two plantings are close to the buildings and surrounded by feed corn on higher ground that’s warmer. It soaks up the sun and it’s a great place to start. It does well up by buildings. It keeps it out of the wind. Sweet corn is a little more fragile than field corn and you have to expect less to be standing.”
Rainwater called the first 10 days of sweet corn selling a “monumental” amount of time, work and effort for himself and his employees. He’s a soybean and corn farmer as well. His hardest harvest work comes at this time of the year.
“It’s like starting a football season with the super bowl,” Rainwater said. “Everything else gets easier afterwards for the rest of the year. Sweet corn season feels never ending, but you try to get as much done as you can. It’s a lot.”
When anticipating storms before the weekend of July 23-24, Rainwater Farms employees were in the fields on Friday night picking sweet corn trying to beat the wind and rain. Rainwater said “there’s no normal” when it comes to sweet corn season.
In the 30-something years he’s grown and sold sweet corn, Rainwater said he hasn’t seen a product like this year’s and neither have his employees.
“Things have just looked so consistent and all the kernels on the cobs and the ears are so perfect,” Rainwater said. “It almost doesn’t look real. I don’t think I’ve had anything look or taste better than this year. We’ve had rain when we needed it. Temperatures have been right where we needed them to be. We’ve just been lucky to be blessed by Mother Nature. It’s been great.”
Sweet corn season takes “quite a bit” of manpower for Rainwater Farms. A team of people works to get sweet corn onto customers’ tables.
“It’s people like my vendors, employees and customers,” Rainwater said. “Farming is never just one person.”
Whether it’s sweet corn, feed corn or soybeans, it’s all farming to Rainwater. He appreciates the work most on days when things go right.
“I feel pride in and feel lucky to do whatever I do,” Rainwater said. “That’s why I get up and do it again. Being one with Mother Nature and having her help so much. Some days everything goes right and I think, ‘This is why I farm.’ It’s definitely something in my blood that I grew up with.”