Apr 7, 2007Sweet Corn Farm Last To Grow Zellwood Variety
For years, Zellwood was the sweet corn capital of Florida, but now there’s only one grower left.
Long & Scott Farms has been the sole grower of Zellwood sweet corn since 1998, when the state government shut down about 18,000 acres of muck farms around Lake Apopka. The shutdown did not affect Long & Scott, a sand farm.
“They figured we weren’t polluting,” said Hank Scott, the farm’s general manager.
According to the farm’s Web site, the farm seized the opportunity to trademark Scott’s Zellwood Sweet Corn, and is now the sole supplier of sweet corn to the Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival, which the city runs, Hank said.
“We’ve been selling corn here for many years,” he said. “People tell us the corn we grow is the best.”
The farm concentrates its sales in retail outlets in the central Florida region, where there is no lack of customers. Zellwood is about 15 miles north of Orlando, a tourism magnet, Hank said.
The farm needs to do a better job marketing its sweet corn and expanding sales beyond central Florida into the Northeast and Midwest. That will be its focus in the future, he said.
The farm produces mostly triple sweet and extra tender corn varieties, which are difficult to grow but taste great, Hank said.
“We pick fresh every day,” he said. “That makes a big difference.”
The farm harvests sweet corn twice a year, in fall and spring. Twenty-five to 30 acres are planted for fall harvest from October through mid-December. Fifty to 60 acres are planted in spring for harvest from mid-April until early June. A cover crop is planted to grow during the hot summer months.
Sweet corn is an important crop at Long & Scott Farms, but it’s not the main crop. That honor goes to pickling cucumbers. The farm plants about 350 acres in fall and 450 acres in spring. It also grows red cabbage, green cabbage, parsley and sod. There are 1,200 acres in all, three-fourths of which are cultivated, he said.
The farm sells 65 percent to 70 percent of its pickles on a contract basis, which adds stability to the business. The rest are sold on the fresh market, Hank said.
“As a rule, most farmers are realizing if you don’t have it sold, you’d better not grow it,” he said. “The days of growing and hoping it will sell are not as promising as they used to be. It’s more miss than hit.”
Hank’s father, Frank, owns the farm. He started it in 1963 with his partner, Billy Long, who is now retired. Hank has been general manager since he got out of college. Frank, 74, will probably sell the farm to his son soon, but Hank doesn’t expect him to retire.
“He’s still out here every day,” Hank said. “He’s a big help. He has excellent knowledge.”
Florida weather can be tricky. The farm took a big beating in 2004 during hurricane season, and lost two-thirds of its pickle crop – more than half a million dollars. However, the yields right after that were some of the best the farm has ever had, Hank said.
The farm also has a market, a corn maze and a Community Supported Agriculture program, according to its Web site, www.scottszellwoodsweetcorn.com.