Such a sweet success
holds an ear of sweet corn from his 4-acre corn patch
south of Klamath Falls. Kliewer has enjoyed growing
the frost-sensitive crop and considers the corn an
Falls Herald and News
It's been a sweet bit of work - and a learning experience, too.
Ry Kliewer is in his second year of growing an
uncommon Basin crop, sweet corn, on 4 acres along Delfatti Lane south
of Klamath Falls.
"This has been our little experimental plot," Kliewer said.
Kliewer is growing two early maturing
varieties, a 67-day yellow variety and a 72-day bi-color corn, which
he's been selling locally to Sherm's Thunderbird Market.
"We sold about 6,000 to 7,000 ears this weekend," said Norm
Aldinger, produce manager at Sherm's Thunderbird Market. Aldinger said
the store was close to selling out of the first delivery of corn
And not just the customers were eating it up.
"Gosh, they sure were good," Aldinger said.
Finding corn grown in the Basin is an uncommon sight in the produce
section of most grocery stores.
"We usually handle Medford corn, which is the closest we've
got," Aldinger said. "But this is right out our back door. I
kind of like to support the local farmer here - try to work with them
a little bit."
The second variety of corn, the
sweeter-tasting bi-color, should be harvested on Friday, said Kliewer,
and it too, will be sold to Sherm's.
Kliewer and his wife Laurinda grow 250 acres of mostly organic
alfalfa and grain. Growing corn is different than the other crops
Kliewer is used to raising.
"It's fun to watch corn grow, in my opinion," Kliewer said
of the fast-growing crop. "You get to see what you put into
And even though the frost-sensitive crop isn't usually grown
commercially in the Basin, it's a fairly common sight in many back
"It grows here quite well," Kliewer
said. "People grow it in their gardens all the time. At this
elevation you can grow really good sweet corn," Kliewer said.
This is Kliewer's second year of growing corn on a 4-acre plot owned
by Jason and Shawn Blodgett.
grows on Ry Kliewer's 4-acre plot south of Klamath
Falls. Kliewer has been selling his corn to a local
Last year Kliewer harvested only 2,000 ears,
which he sold at Ray's Food Warehouse. Frost claimed the majority of
the second variety of that crop just as the ears were ready to pick.
"That was a heartbreaker," Kliewer said.
He estimates he would have had 10,000 ears
from what was destroyed by frost.
This year Kliewer has harvested more corn, but hasn't gotten as much
for the crop as he had hoped due to some ear worm damage and some
immature ears. Pickers have had to pull the husks back from the ears
to look for ear worm, and some immature ears required trimming.
"We're not going to make a lot on
this," Kliewer said.
Kliewer is learning as he goes along. He did most of his research
through the Internet from information available from state college
crop studies. He also got a lot of helpful advice from Roger Taylor, a
Basin farmer who grows field corn for dairies.
Important elements for growing corn, Kliewer said, include plant
spacing, subsoil ground development because corn roots go deep, lots
of nitrogen fertilizer and plenty of water.
Kliewer used a pivot sprinkler system on the corn this year that was
put in by the Blodgetts through their sprinkler and irrigation system
business B Tech Corp.
The system worked well, Kliewer said, putting water down evenly on the
"You want corn to be wet as much as you can, but heavy on the
nitrogen," Kliewer said.
New this year to Kliewer's experimental plot were a flex planter, and
a piece of equipment appreciated by his family and friends - a
Last year's crop was harvested by hand with help from lots of friends
Kliewer had worked on the harvesting problem over the winter,
sketching a design for the kind of machine he felt would do the job of
harvesting on his small plot before he bought the picker out of
"I sat down and I actually designed a machine. When we got that
here, it was almost identical," Kliewer said.
And as in most projects, one solution creates another problem.
Most corn stalks will produce two ears, but very rarely are both ears
prime at the same time. With the mechanical picker Kliewer is only
able to use one ear per stalk.
"It's a rare instance to have them prime at the same time,"
With this year's crop nearly in, Kliewer is looking on to next year's
"I'd like to find an earlier variety," Kliewer said, with
intentions to plant by April 15. "I'd like to have corn by the
Fourth of July."
Kliewer is targeting the earlier planting date, hoping to coax the
crop to an earlier harvest in order to accommodate harvesting his main
crops - hay and grain.
Kliewer says he will rely on the soil's temperature to prevent the
tender crop from sprouting too soon.
"It's your soil temperature that's going to make your seed
sprout," Kliewer said.
Organic sweet corn is also something Kliewer is considering and if the
Round-up Ready variety of bi-color sweet corn he wants is available,
he is considering that, too.
"If they have that, that will make weed control easier,"
Kliewer is enjoying the challenge of experimenting with a crop on a
"We'll probably try this for a few more years," Kliewer
said. "The one I'd like to try is carrots."
But for now, the experiment continues.
"It's been quite a learning experience," Kliewer said.