BARNWELL – Around the Taber area, pieces of equipment called pickers are making their way through the region’s legendary corn crops.
That includes nearly 400 acres of sweet corn grown by Johnson Fresh Farms. James Johnson explained the operation started with his father and a partner, who had started out working for the Tanner farms and ultimately buying them out around 18 years ago.
“And since then, us boys have just kind of continued to slowly grow the Taber name and the Johnson Farms,” Johnson said in an interview with Lethbridge News Now.
Their crop has become even larger, with the acquisition of the Jensen operation. Johnson said the Jensens, like the Tanners years ago, simply decided it was time to retire from the corn business.
WATCH: The How and Why of Taber Corn
“It’s a lot of really hard work. Early mornings, late nights… it’s an extremely busy, stressful crop,” he explained. “They did a fabulous job. They really built up the Taber name and supplied people with a quality product for a long time. So, we’re hoping that we can carry on with the tradition and possibly even make it a little better.”
The procedure involves a picker taking up four rows of corn at a time, gently removing the ears of corn from the stalks and moving them to the hopper. The corn is taken to a sorting facility where it’s bagged and then distributed across Alberta and beyond.
The remaining plant material is left in the field, where it is later plowed into the soil.
Johnson said a combination of infrastructure and climate is what makes Taber corn special.
“We have a fabulous irrigation system that we’ve been really blessed with, so timely water, even if it’s really hot and we don’t have rain, we have the ability through irrigation systems (to) apply the appropriate water needed to grow a beautiful cob,” he said. The other ingredient is hot days paired with chilly nights.
“Our temperature at night really drops, which brings out the sugar in the cob. It’s made Taber kind of known as the best place in the world, almost, to grow corn.”
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