Community members gathered last week on a family farm in Manhattan, Illinois to harvest sweet corn to donate to local food banks of the under-served Chicago area. Boy Scouts, Church groups and other local volunteers worked hard to beat the afternoon sun yanking ears of corn, cracking the stalks and stomping them to the ground as they moved on the next one. RFA Technical Director Kristy Moore and I were invited to go join the fun and pick some ears ourselves. The group planned to donate 9,000-12,000 ears of corn. The sweet corn was picked from a Wilton Township Farm, owned by Lester Robbins. Jim Robbins, the son of the farm owner and member of the Illinois Marketing Board was more than welcoming as we approached the harvesting area. The enthusiasm of the whole group was tangible, making it easy to get in the middle of the stalks and start yanking and cracking. Robbins and fellow farmer John Keifner planted 30,000 kernels of the corn per acre, specifically for this donation project. The sweet corn had been planted close in vicinity to the field corn which would be harvested later in the year. Sweet corn, which is used for human consumption has a different physical characteristic than field corn, as it is shorter in stalk length and typically grows more than one ear per stalk. Field corn, which is generally not used for human consumption but for ethanol production and livestock feed, is taller and has different tassels at the top. It is great to know that there are groups who are donating their time and crops to those who are less fortunate than they are. I am happy that I was able to participate in such a great community project while I was visiting the area. Nothing is better than fresh veggies from your local farm! Read more about the event from the local newspaper here.