Corn fans in Kamloops and the Okanagan may notice Chilliwack cobs are even plumper than normal this year – but despite the larger kernels, it hasn’t been a good year for farmers.
Ian Sparkes is the farmer owner of Sparkes Corn Barn in Chilliwack. He offers his products in Vernon through green and yellow huts, small structures well known to those who have already seen them.
“Usually we start (the maize harvest) in the first 10 days of July,” he said. “This year we started the last five days of July.”
Sparkes estimates that corn will spend 40% less time on the market during the valuable summer period.
“It always slows down after Labor Day,” he said.
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In anticipation of the smaller time to market, Sparkes reduced volume by approximately 20%.
“To sum up (this season) in one word – crap,” he said. “But the corn we’re growing looks amazing.”
The Corn Barns once operated in Kelowna. But Sparkes said local farmers – one in particular – felt frustrated with the competition he had brought to town and pressure had been put on the town to make him feel unwelcome. He found himself being punished for settlements that seemed petty, so he decided to exit the market.
“The issues were about stupid stuff to make life difficult for us. So I decided it wasn’t worth it… I said screw it.
Vernon, on the other hand, was fun to work with, Sparkes said.
He’s aware of consumer interest in expanding his barns in markets like Kamloops and Penticton, but managing more staff and stalls, especially hundreds of miles away, makes expansion prohibitively expensive.
Instead, Sparkes hopes to connect with area retailers interested in selling its corn exclusively.
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