Taber corn takes hail hit

Taber corn will make a full appearance at the southern Alberta town’s annual Cornfest Aug. 22-25 despite severe crop damage earlier this month from a hailstorm in the Taber and Barnwell regions.

The Aug. 6 storm, with winds of more than 140 kilometres per hour, drove large hailstones that wiped out area crops including the corn for which this southern Alberta town has become famous.

Several growers of sweet corn had complete crop losses. Among the partial survivors is Barnwell-based Johnson Fresh Farms, which grows about 500 acres annually.

“All of our stuff got hit with hail,” said James Johnson, while harvesting a sample batch of remaining crop Aug. 19. “It caught all the fields, just some worse than others.”

Johnson Fresh Farms will be the sole provider of corn for coming corn festival in Taber, which will feature corn tasting and corn stuffing contests that are popular attractions.

“We’re happy about that,” said Taber Chamber of Commerce office manager Anne Jensen, noting there were initial worries right after the storm about corn availability for the festival.

Usually a number of farms provide corn for the event, as well as stocking corn stands with fresh product throughout the province and beyond. Now many corn stands feature “fresh corn” as opposed to “Taber corn,” a brand the region and its growers have taken pains to protect.

“Some street vendors are buying corn from other areas,” said Johnson. “It’s from wherever they can get it now.”

He said the quality of sweet corn his farm is now marketing might not be as good as usual. Some cobs may show slight damage from the effects of the storm but nothing can be done about that.

“We’re making the best of the situation that we can. That’s all we can really do. It’s been an adjustment, that’s for sure.”

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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