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Chilliwack delivering higher quality corn this year but less of it

A baby enjoying corn on the cob.
A baby enjoying corn on the cob.

Corn lovers from Kamloops and the Okanagan may notice that the cobs from Chilliwack are even more plump than normal this year – but despite the bigger kernels, it hasn’t been a good year for farmers.

Ian Sparkes is the farmer who owns Sparkes Corn Barn in Chilliwack. He offers his products in Vernon by way of green and yellow huts – very familiar little structures for anybody who’s ever seen one. 

“Usually we start (harvesting corn) within the first 10 days of July,” he said. “This year we started the final five days of July.”

Sparkes figures the corn will spend 40% less time on the market during the valuable summertime.

“It always slows down after Labour Day,” he said.

READ MORE: Penticton's Crazy Corn Man known for colourful personality (and great corn)

In anticipation of the smaller marketing window, Sparkes cut back on volume by about 20%.

“To sum (this season) up in one word – the shits,” he said. “But the corn that we are growing looks amazing.”

The Corn Barns used to operate in Kelowna. But Sparkes said local farmers – one in particular – felt frustrated by the competition he brought to town, and pressure was put on the city to make him feel unwelcome. He found himself getting punished for bylaws that seemed petty so he decided to exit the market.

“The issues were over stupid stuff to make our life difficult. So I decided it wasn’t worth my time… I said screw it.”

Vernon in contrast has been good to work with, Sparkes said.

He’s aware of consumer interest to expand his barns in markets like Kamloops and Penticton, but managing more staff and stands, especially from hundreds of kilometres away, makes expansion prohibitive.

Instead, Sparkes is hoping to connect with retailers in the region who would be interested in exclusively selling his corn.

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