Not so sweet start to North Fork’s corn season

A field of corn behind Jenn's farmstand on Peconic Bay Boulevard in Aquebogue on Monday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
A field of corn behind Jenn’s farmstand on Peconic Bay Boulevard in Aquebogue on Monday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

North Fork growers say they are in a race against time and temperature, hoping they will be able to harvest enough local sweet corn to fill farm stand shelves for the busy holiday weekend.

The lasting effects of the cold winter stalled the growth of many area corn crops, putting harvesting behind schedule, according to many local farmers.

“At this point it’s a really close horse race,” said Ed Harbes of Harbes Family Farm of Mattituck. “It is almost too close to call, but I always like to be optimistic.” Mr. Harbes said that while he may have to wait on the majority of his crop to mature, he is hopeful he will have a small amount of his award-winning sweet corn available for purchase in time for the fourth of July.

But that won’t be the case at Schmitt Family Farms in Riverhead.

“There may be some [corn] around but I don’t think there’s going to be much,” said Phil Schmitt. “We, definitely, will not have it in time.”

Mr. Schmitt said the maturity of different crops depends on growing techniques; explaining that those who utilized plastic to line the ground and keep the heat in will likely reap most of the early harvest.

One of such growers is Jeff Rottkamp of Fox Hollow Farm in Calverton, who farms 135 acres of the sweet commodity.

Mr. Rottkamp said his crop will be ready to harvest just in time for the holiday, available starting July 4.

“The cold didn’t help us, but somehow the crop pulled through,” he said. “It seems like we’re going to have just as much as we had last year this time. It should be a good year.”

Both Mr. Harbes and Mr. Schmitt said they will be turning to local growers like Mr. Rottkamp to supplement their own retail stocks.

“Maybe they can help us out for a few days,” Mr. Harbes said.

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