Capital region’s first corn harvest is in

Early Saanich Peninsula-grown sweet corn is starting to show up at farm stands in the capital region.

Pickers will be in the fields at 5 a.m. today picking ears to sell at Silver Rill Corn’s 7117 Central Saanich Rd. market and at local community markets.

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They will be out there every day at that time for the rest of the season to beat the heat and have a supply ready for customers.

Corn is selling for $10 for a “baker’s dozen,” Clayyon Fox, of the multi-generational Silver Rill Corn, said Monday.

“The weather in March when we planted it was very nice so that allowed us to have a really good yield for our early corn.”

Silver Rill started picking on June 30. Fox suspects that could be the first in all of Canada.

A total of 70 acres in corn is planted by Silver Rill. Every year, Fox experiments with new varieties, although many local residents are committed to the sweet peaches-and-cream corn they produce. This year, Fox is trying another 10 new types of corn.

Demand is strongest through July and August, typically dropping off after the Labour Day weekend, he said. Corn will be available into the fall.

When corn is planted, a special blanket goes over the ground to retain heat and encourage growth. The blanket allows water and sunlight through.

In past decades, corn would ripen in early August, but with the covering, it is now ready a full month earlier, Fox said.

Along with other local farmers, Silver Rill produces a variety of produce. Fox said carrots and beets are among vegetables ready now.

Farmers began selling a variety of berries just over a month ago when strawberries and then raspberries, blackberries and more started ripening.

At Galey Farms at 4150 Blenkinsop Rd., Rob Galey is known for his berries. He decided to branch out into corn and spent much of his winter travelling in B.C., Alberta and the U.S. to gather information.

Seeds were imported from Europe, Chile and elsewhere, said a tight-lipped Galey. He won’t say what varieties he’s growing, calling them “top secret” for now. He is hoping to start selling corn in seven to 10 days — provided the weather co-operates.

A total of four varieties will be on sale. “They are new to this area,” he said.

Galey anticipates the 15 acres he has planted in corn will yield 18,000 cobs per acre.

In addition to the land at the family farm, Galey leases 14 other sites to work a total of 150 acres with about 500,000 plants in total.

To keep plants healthy, he releases beneficial insects. One munches on leaf-eating spider mites and ladybugs love to feast on aphids.

For information on local farms and to find out what is available, go to islandfarmfresh.com.

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