Farm Horizons, October 2014

Waverly farmer’s corn heads to Minnesota State Fair each year

By Starrla Cray

Thousands of juicy, sweet cobs of roasted, buttered corn were consumed at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair – all with the help of Waverly farmer Jerry Untiedt.

“It’s a very hectic 12 or 13 days,” Jerry said.

Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm delivers at least one truckload of corn each night – or several truckloads, depending on demand.

“It varies year by year, and by the weather,” Untiedt explained. “If it’s very hot and humid, people don’t want to eat a lot of corn. If it’s cooler, or a little rainy, people eat more.”

On average, Untiedt sets aside about 40 acres for the state fair. He grows about 300 acres of sweet corn total, which allows him to adjust to the needs accordingly.

Corn that’s ready to go is loaded in gunnysacks onto a truck. Then, at midnight, the trucks are driven to the fair. Untiedt’s employees, as well as workers from the state fair, unload the corn and store it in a huge cooler room until it’s ready for roasting.

To ensure the cobs are at peak ripeness during the fair, timing the growth is critical.

“You don’t want to be too early, or too late,” Untiedt said, explaining that sweet corn has a 12- to 13-week growing season.

Excessive moisture this spring and early summer provided an extra challenge.

“This was the hardest year in all my 44 years of doing this,” Untiedt said.

More than sweet corn

Untiedt and his wife, Sue, founded Untiedt’s Vegetable farm in 1971. Today, the business provides more than 50 fruit and vegetable crops, such as apples, strawberries, watermelon, asparagus, broccoli, pumpkins, and much more.

Two of Untiedt’s four daughters are employed on the farm full time, as well as a few other family members. Interns are also hired throughout the year.

“We have 12 to 15 year-round full-time workers, plus seasonal employees on work visas,” Untiedt said. “I have wonderful people to work with.”

Temporary employees are often from places like Ukraine, Moldova, Mexico, Bulgaria, Russia, Brazil, and Romania.

“They keep me informed about what’s going on in the world,” Untiedt said. “I call it pure news.”

Many of Untiedt’s crops are grown using high tunnels, which allows them to be planted much sooner. It also extends the harvest later into the fall.

“I like the technology; we’re very advanced,” Untiedt said.

Untiedt’s success didn’t happen overnight, though.

“I’m pretty passionate about it; there’s not much else I’d rather be doing,” Untiedt said, adding that he probably works about 100 hours per week. “It’s not about the money – it’s all about the triumph of attaining goals. And it’s even better when there are other people who share the same vision.”

Untiedt’s Vegetable farm is located on 25th St. SW, a few miles north of Waverly. To learn more, call (763) 658-4672.

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