A look inside the Jersey sweet corn business

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

While lots of people are getting ready for that summer barbeque, Hlubik Farms workers are in the fields. With a swift snap they ensure there’s plenty of sweet corn on picnic tables throughout the state.

“You have to make hay while the sun shines, right?” asked Ray Hlubik. “We pick corn seven days a week for the most part,”

In April, Hlubik begins planting hundreds of thousands of corn seeds on 30 acres in Burlington County. He continues to plant every five to six days through the end of July so there’s enough corn to last until October. Ray and his team start picking around Independence Day.

“We pick all our corn by hand. They do have machines that they do use for picking corn, but we prefer to pick it by hand — it’s a little bit gentler on the corn,” he said.

The state Department of Agriculture indicates New Jersey farmers harvested 59.5 million pounds of sweet corn last year — valuing $17.3 million.

“The idea is it’s something that’s a harbinger of summer. You know you’re in the dead of summer when Jersey sweet corn is coming on,” said New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher.

“We’re growing about 6,400 acres of sweet corn in the state. That’s a lot of corn!” said Fisher. “The taste and the freshness, you can’t beat it,” he said.

When Hlubik Farms’ workers are picking they feel for fullness and check that the corn’s silk is brown.

“That shows that the ear is pollinated and the kernels themselves are starting to mature,” Hlubik said.

He grows three different types of corn — yellow, white and bi-color.

“Florida Growers, and the people that ship corn in, are growing what we call super sweets, so they tend to have a higher compliment of sugars on them but they also have a little bit of a tough side. That’s why when you cook them they don’t have that tenderness to them. What we tend to grow around here are a lot of the sugar enhanced corns, which have a higher compliment of sugar that makes the corn last a little bit longer in the field and after you pick it will last a little bit longer,” Hlubik said.

Hlubik farms recommends that people refrigerate their corn right after they buy it and that’s because once its pulled from the stalk the process of sugars turning into starch begins. That means that corn starts losing its sweetness, which is why there’s a cooler attached to a stand at the farm. This ensures that shoppers buy fresh sweet corn.

It’s something New Jerseyans can look forward to enjoying for the rest of the summer.