ROCHESTER, Minn. — Are you getting sweet corn for tonight's dinner table from a roadside stand? More than likely, you can thank an Eyota family.
Kristin and Mike Blattner's business, Produce Plus, sells a variety of produce, but focuses on sweet corn.
They've been selling produce from roadside truck stands for about 26 years. They have about 30 trucks that set up shop in Rochester and the surrounding area, all the way to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Each truck has produce that was picked fresh that day or the day before by the Blattners.
"Ninety percent of what we sell is ours," Blattner told Agri News . "All the cucumbers, zucchini, green peppers, onions and tomatoes — all that stuff, we grow."
Blattner said they plant super-sweet varieties of corn all season long, starting in early April until the end of June, to ensure they always have fresh corn in the summer months.
"Candy Corn," which is emblazoned on all of their roadside stands, is not a brand name, but rather a name that represents their quality of sweet corn.
"People look for the 'Candy Corn'," said Blattner, "because to them, that means quality, good corn. And that's what separates us from other sellers."
Roadside sellers arrive at Produce Plus in the evening or early morning to load up their trucks with produce. The trucks are then dispatched to places where the Blattners believe there's a demand for fresh local produce.
It's difficult to estimate how much corn they've sold so far this summer, but they're picking a few trailers worth each day, Blattner said.
All ages of people sell at the stands, she added. They have some high schoolers, some people in their 80s and yet others who have full-time Monday through Friday jobs and work only on the weekends. Each seller gets a minimum salary plus 20 percent of what they make each day.
"And they all become like family to us," Blattner said of the Produce Plus sellers. "We spend so much time together and work so hard that it's just like a big family."
Rochester Century high-schooler Breanna Wing operates a truck stand in the parking lot of Great Harvest Bread Company. She got involved with the Blattner's business through her brother's girlfriend, who used to work the same job.
On days she's working the stand, Wing said she goes out to the Blattner's farm in Eyota about 7 a.m. to pick up a truck, and fill its bed with corn and other produce.
Wing said working the stand is a good opportunity to also work on her social skills, which she said have improved greatly over the summer.
"I really like that I get to meet a lot of different people every day," said Wing, who said she's accustomed to elderly customers sticking around for a while to talk.
"You can see where it's coming from," said one customer at Wing's stand, Carlos Roman of Rochester, on why he likes buying from the local stands. "It's not being imported from Chile."
Darrin McCollough and his daughter, Alea McCollough, have been selling corn from their truck stand in the parking lot near the Walmart in northwest Rochester. The father-daughter sales team sells onions, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, melons, watermelons and peppers, as well as sweet corn.
"They've staggered it, and have it down to a science for when it ripens," said Darrin McCollough of the sweet corn from Eyota. "So once they pick it, we fill our truck with new stuff each day."
McCollough said their average customers are usually older people in the mornings, as well as professionals coming home from work in the evenings.
Both the McCollough family and Wing sell corn for $4 for seven ears, and $7 for 14 ears, nearly every day from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
McCollough said they make around an average of $100 a day selling corn, while Wing said she can make more than $1,000 a day selling from her location.
Blattner said the couple's three children are getting to be adults now, but they all still have a hand in the family business.
The oldest son, Brett, sells thousands of roasted ears at the Olmsted County Free Fair from his stand, the Rolling Roaster.
"It's just become a part of who we are," Blattner said. "We live it."
An AP Member Exchange shared by Agri News.