Marissa Kruthaup and her brother started selling produce at the farmers market when their family’s home garden produced too many melons one year. Today, they own and run Kruthaup Family Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which operates on their parents’ 70-acre farm.
In order to keep her family business thriving, Marissa wanted to compare different sweet corn production systems. In 2012, she received an NCR SARE Farmer Rancher grant to compare different varieties of heirloom and hybrid seed under two treatments, conventional and organic production. She evaluated each variety for both grower and customer satisfaction. Kruthaup tested six sweet corn varieties, three hybrid and three heirloom, in white, yellow, and bi-color. Each of these was varieties was planted in its own section of an organic and conventional plot. Sections consisted of four rows, each 150 feet long.
The heirloom varieties used were: Stowell’s Evergreen, a white variety; Golden Bantam, a yellow variety; and Blue Jade, a blue colored variety. The hybrid varieties used were: Silver Queen, a white variety; Bodacious, a yellow variety; and Peaches and Cream, a bi-color variety.
Data on each of these sections was collected throughout the season. Kruthaup recorded labor differences, insect population, plant health, population planting, ear length, plant height, and overall production of plants to determine grower satisfaction. She recorded data on flavor, texture, ear length, sweetness, and overall satisfaction to determine consumer satisfaction. Consumer data was compiled using a blind test where each variety was assigned a letter to prevent bias.
Results of this study indicate that there was little difference in labor time or consumer satisfaction between organic and conventional production systems. There were differences in productivity between these systems, but this depended on variety.
The hybrid Bodacious grown in an organic system was a favorite in terms of grower satisfaction due to its uniform maturity and lack of pressure from weeds, insects, and diseases. This variety ranked second in consumer satisfaction, following the hybrid Peaches and Cream variety.
The Kruthaups have switched the varieties of white sweet corn they grow from the hybrid Silver Queen to the heirloom Stowell’s Evergreen because of improved yields, plant health, and consumer satisfaction. Kruthaup believes that this study has benefitted her farm. She says that it was a great value getting shareholders involved in trying varieties of sweet corn, both for choosing which variety to grow and simply to inform consumers.
View Marissa's presentation on this project, from the 2014 Farmers Forum, through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist. Visit www.youtube.com/NCRSAREvideo for this and other videos.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant:
- Sustainable Sweet Corn Production (FNC12-871)