Sweet corn is in season, and if you go looking for it at farm stands, farmers markets, and even grocery stores across the state and elsewhere, it can be found from 20 cents per ear to $7 for a dozen, with the going rate between 40 and 50 cents per ear.
That’s what you’ll learn by taking a drive or by visiting the a website put up by the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Center for Crop Diversification — which is a mouthful to say in and of itself.
The site (www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/farmersmarket.html) holds farmers market reports from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois listing prices found across those states for various produce.
Overseeing the collection of Illinois information is Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator serving Logan, Menard and Sangamon counties for the University of Illinois extension program. She also serves on the board and as secretary for the Illinois Farmers Market Association (ilfarmersmarkets.org).
This is the first year for the project in Illinois, Cavanaugh-Grant said, and corn is among the 23 commodities price-checked from nine farmers markets across Illinois. She has Constanza Echaiz, Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms from the Lake/McHenry unit, collecting the information from the Woodstock Farmers Market on Saturdays.
“The numbers listed for each market are an average of all of the vendors selling that particular crop,” Cavanaugh-Grant said.
The data gathered for the week of Aug. 11-17 noted that corn sold by vendors at the Woodstock Farmers Market was 50 cents an ear. The least expensive corn listed was $3 a dozen (a little more than 30 cents an ear) at the Benton Farmers Market in Franklin County.
A cursory look at information on the UK site shows that $4-$6 a dozen prices for sweet corn are common at the Kentucky and Tennessee markets surveyed, too.
Cavanaugh noted that making the pricing information available online helps farmers decide how to set prices that help them make money will at the same time being competitive.
To that point, Fotini Wickman said she conducted online research, noted what she saw in stores and what she would be willing to pay before setting the price at 50 cents an ear for non-GMO heirloom sweet corn grown without the aid of chemicals. Wickman and her husband, Brian, farm a quarter acre of its 10-acre lot in Marengo and were at Elgin’s downtown Harvest Market Thursday for the first time with their Fruitful Harvest stand.
Windy Acres Farm of Geneva typically attends the Elgin market but wasn’t present Thursday afternoon because of the weather. The farm sells its corn at $7 per dozen, a price Amanda Srail said the family’s business has been holding to for the last five years.
Harvest Market vendor Merrill Marxman said that 40-50 cents an ear seemed to be what sweet corn has been going for this summer at markets he visits in Illinois and those he sees back in Michigan, his home state.
At Klein’s farm stand on Elgin’s southwest side, sweet corn is 48 cents an ear or $5.65 a dozen.
The Jewel-Osco in West Dundee had local sweet corn for 50 cents an ear or five for $2 Thursday afternoon. And the current flyer for the Woodman’s in Carpentersville Thursday listed locally grown “bi color” sweet corn at five ears for $1, with prices good through Aug. 27.
Wickman said the corn found this time of year at grocery stores usually is from Illinois or surrounding states. The biggest differences between it and farm stand or market varieties might be the level of freshness, the amount of chemicals and pesticides used to grow it, and if the corn is genetically modified, she noted.