More Than Just Sweet Corn
by Drake McKenzie, McKenzie Farm & Forest
October 6, 2020
Growing up in rural Alabama, I have seen my fair share of farming. My hands-on experience farming was with my grandfather, Bob Stovall. Although he did not farm corn and pumpkins, I was always riding with him on the tractor while “we” cut, raked, and baled the hay, loving every minute. Looking back, it is those moments that are deep-rooted in my mind and helped me decide to start farming myself.
I blinked and had graduated from Auburn University with my degree in Forestry. I was not quite ready to return to the small town of Jasper, Alabama so I dabbled in different things until the woods began calling my name. I have always had a passion for the outdoors since I can remember. Whether it’s hunting, cruising timber, or planting corn and pumpkins, I live in the outdoors.
My first crop was Bi-color (Peaches-n-Cream) Sweet Corn in 2016. I learned more than I could have imagined. Don’t ever plant all of your crop at once. Hand-picking an acre of corn that comes in all at once is a big job! I wanted to implement everything new that I had learned during my first year. My excitement for farming had expanded exponentially. There is nothing like seeing the seed, that you planted, sprout and produce a great harvest. I thought I was just a corn farmer but, on a whim, three years later, I purchased $50 worth of pumpkin seeds to try my hand at them. I was a little skeptical and unsure of the process of becoming a pumpkin farmer. That first year got me hooked, however. I enjoyed watching the rapid growth that pumpkins can do.
There is nothing like seeing the seed, that you planted, sprout and produce a great harvest.Share on Twitter
Fast forward to 2020. I planted more than an acre and over 30 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash. We were blessed with several good rain showers at just the right time this year. I had a wonderful harvest of over 600 pumpkins! With help from my family and friends, we were able to harvest and share our bounty at our “Pop-up Pumpkin Patch” at a local sporting goods store, Pat’s Archery and Outdoors. It was a huge success and we sold out in only three hours! Three local businesses, Twisted Barely Brewing, Black Rock Bistro and Five Loaves Bakery, reached out wanting to create a beer and dishes with my locally grown pumpkins. Three more local businesses, The Fox Salon & Spa Suites, Bernard’s Store for Men, and Jasper Dental, all came to the “Patch” to buy their fall display pumpkins for their store front. Sweet Grown Alabama is a vital resource for my farm in that it “enhances marketing opportunities for farmers by connecting retailers and consumers to Alabama-grown foods and other agricultural products knowing they were grown sustainably right here in Alabama by a local farmer.” It benefits everyone when local people and businesses buy from local farmers such as myself and I am thankful for Sweet Grown Alabama promoting my Alabama-grown products.