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Berkshire Tidbits: Corn Season
By Judith Lerner, Special to iBerkshires
03:28PM / Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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Tasseled corn on Nancy Flynn's farm in Pittsfield is nearing maturity. Photo by Judith Lerner.

The Tolland, Conn., Volunteer Fire Department will hold its annual steak and lobster dinner Saturday, July 16, from 5 to 11 p.m.

There's a choice of a steak dinner, $25, a lobster dinner, $25, or a steak and lobster dinner, $40. Dinners include a salad, corn-on-the-cob, a baked potato and dessert. Or, hot dogs and hamburgers may be purchased separately.

The cash bar is open at 5 and remains open throughout the evening. Dinner seating is from 6 to 8. After dinner there will be a live band with dancing, a raffle and more.

The event takes place at the Tolland Public Safety Complex, 206 West Granville Road/Route 57.

Call 413-258-2859 or 413-537-8886 for tickets.


Sculptor and photographer Naomi Grossman had to cancel the talk she was to have had at the Diana Felber Gallery, 6 Harris St., across from Orient Express Vietnamese Restaurant in West Stockbridge, 413-854-7002, last month.

The talk is scheduled to take place this Sunday, July 17, from 4:30 to 5:30.


Richard Bourdon mixing a batch of his gluten-free chocolate chip cookies at Berkshire Mountain Bakery.

Richard Bourdon, founder, owner and baker at Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic and Pittsfield (where a café is added to the bakery) will be speaking in the air-conditioned upstairs Philip Barber Gallery of the Becket Arts Center, at the junction of Brooker Hill Road and Main St./Route 8, North Becket, 413-623-6635, on Tuesday, July 19, from 7:30 to 9ish

This is a free event with homemade cookies and lemonade which might be free as part of the Arts Center's Marty Lasker free lecture series 2016 or might be for sale.

Membership in the Arts Center at the rate of $50 and over gets reserved seating at the lectures.


More than 700 Monterey residents and summer visitors are expected to attend Monterey's 39th annual steak roast on Saturday, July 30, between 5 and 7 p. m.

There will be steak, swordfish, assorted side dishes, salad, desserts, beer, wine and soft drinks. There will also be entertainment for the children and live music.

Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 the day of the steak roast. They are available from any Monterey firefighter and at a table across from the post office on weekend mornings or at the transfer station on weekends and at the firehouse on Wednesday evenings.

Good luck calling 413-528-3136 for information. No one ever called me back.

Here are some corny tidbits.

In researching local corn stories over the years, I have been told, over and over, by local farmers that their sweet corn and all local sweet corn was not genetically modified, whether it was organically or conventionally raised. They told me GM seed producers will not sell their seed in quantities small enough for even our largest local sweet corn growers like Taft Farms in Great Barrington or Whitney's Farm Market in Cheshire.

Longtime corn farmer Larry Eckhardt of Kinderhook Creek Farm in Stephentown, N.Y., told me differently. But we'll get to that.

And when can we begin to eat our local sweet corn?

Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington has local corn now although I do not know from where.

Berkshire Organics on the Pittsfield/Dalton line will have organic corn from Warner Farm in Sunderland starting Wednesday afternoon, July 13.

Wallace Chenail of Chenail's Farm on Luce Road in Williamstown said he expects his corn will be ready to sell around July 22.

Russell Clark of Clover Hill Farm in Richmond is still growing corn. He told me he'll have it by the second week in August.

"My early corn will be comin' in good, by then," he said.

The produce department at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington and Pittsfield told me they expect to get local sweet corn from Larry Eckhardt's farm about July 23.

Bruce Howden of Howden Farm in Sheffield thinks his corn will be ready within a couple of weeks -- "Maybe sooner," he added. He said to check the Howden Farm Facebook page. "When it is ready I will put it on there and then you will know."

Kathy Noble of Noble's Tweenbrook Farm in Pittsfield said their corn will be ready in early August. If it rains. She hopes it will be in about three weeks but, "It's three weeks from tassel and it hasn't tasseled yet," she explained to me.

Taft says theirs is expected later this week.

Whitney's says their corn should be ready to sell in a couple of weeks in late July.

Wild Oats Co-op Market in Williamstown says they will have corn from the Pioneer Valley as of Thursday, July 14. And corn from Chenail's Farm when it is ready later in July.

Corn boiling at a firefighters' steak roast.

Speaking to the produce departments in some of the supermarkets around the county, Big Y in Pittsfield says is does not have and will not be getting local corn this summer. Big Y in Great Barrington says it does not have local corn now but thinks it will be getting it "in the season" from somewhere in New York state. Big Y in Lee has already gotten local sweet corn from Hadley or Whately.

"It's pretty good," the produce clerk said with a laugh.

Price Chopper in Pittsfield will also get its local corn from Kinderhook Creek Farm in Stephentown, N.Y., toward the end of July.

The Dan Fox Drive Stop & Shop in Pittsfield does not have local sweet corn yet but will be getting it from Kinderhook, "soon."

So …

I called Kinderhook Creek Farm.

Unlike sitting on hold for five minutes hearing blaring, horrible music as I did trying to reach the supermarkets, after a couple of rings the phone was answered.

"Eckhardt," Larry Eckhardt said.

We spoke or, rather, he spoke in answer to questions I had. For 10 or 15 minutes. Cold call.

He was very affable from the moment he picked up the phone until he thanked me for calling and said goodbye.

He said he grows his 200 acres of sweet corn "the old-fashioned, hard way." Then, laughed. His corn is not genetically modified because it does not need to be. He finds the non-GMO corn varieties he buys from seed companies such as Burpee and Stokes and others grow better in the Stephentown climate, are more disease resistant to the issues in our area, they cost less and taste better than GM corn which is, he said, created mainly for Florida and Georgia climate, conditions and problems that are different from ours.

"That's the corn you see in the supermarkets in the winter," Larry told me.

He said he only sprays pesticides on his corn when he sees it is needed.

He grows many hybrid varieties from fresh seed every year. And does test plantings of new varieties all the time.

Russell Clark of Clover Hill Farm said Larry Eckhardt has always been helpful and friendly, sharing the information he gets from his seed trials and from agricultural conferences.

"He comes from good family," Clark said. "His father, George, still works for him, driving the bags of corn to Guido's and Stop & Shop and Price Chopper. He's a real nice guy. A hard, hard worker. His son and his wife, too."

"I've been growing corn for 50 years and I'm 60 years old," Eckhardt said. He laughed again and admitted he was picking corn for his father when he was a boy.

I asked him whether he was too small for companies that sell GM seeds to sell to.

"Not by a long shot," he answered. "They'll sell to anybody. Even a home gardener. You could buy genetically modified seeds if you wanted to."

Ask the farmer you get your corn from whether she or he uses GMO seed to grow his corn.

A tractor sits behind cornfield at Woven Roots Farm in 2012.


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