Todd Durrant’s Random Thoughts
Follow the efforts of a creative, crazed entrepreneur.

Corn Stories

Believe me, I am bummed that I am unable to post on this blog very often these days.   I’ve discovered that it does indeed take a toll to work another full-time job at the same time that I’m trying to keep a business rolling and keep in touch with friends and do the other things that I enjoy.  As you know, I’ve been devoting several hours per day working at a produce stand selling corn, melons, cherries, etc.  Why?  Well, it pays.

But you know something– I’ve actually enjoyed my time there.   I never imagined myself as a produce man, and my knowledge of corn up until this summer has been limited to the basics– I like eating it, and if it isn’t fresh, I am able to open a can.  Well, I’ve learned that for the true corn connoisseur, there is a lot more to this stuff!   Some people are very serious about their corn.

I was told by my boss, Kenny (who is the son of the corn farmer, and who has spent his entire youth picking and selling corn in the summers) that some people will say things like, “I can get corn for half that price at the grocery store down the street!”    Well, what should my response be?   He said, just say, “OK, thanks,” and let them drive away.   Why?  Because a true corn fan won’t care about the price– they want the REAL stuff, picked that morning as “locally” as possible.  They want less than 12 hours from the field to their mouth or it just isn’t right.   Basically, I’ve learned that the REAL reply to those people, which goes unspoken, is this:  “OK, if you want to eat California corn that has been sitting on ice for a week and that the store really wants to get rid of, then go for it!”

Sure, some people shake their heads, yell things like “highway robbery!” when I say it is $5.50 per dozen.  But you know what, that is still less than most the stores, and I’ve discovered that there is nothing you can buy in a store that is the same as sweet corn picked in the morning.  I can vouch for it because I’ve been sitting there on a Friday or Saturday with no place to go for lunch, and I’ve chowed into the stuff, raw!  It was tasty!   Well, it doesn’t digest very well that way (looks about the same coming out as it did going in), but it was good!  I’ve decided that Kenny’s dad must put some nefarious drug…maybe nicotine…in his corn because despite any price complaint, once somebody buys the stuff and eats it, they are back nearly every day for more.   Kenny can’t pick enough corn to meet demand!

So, I’m a believer in fresh corn.   That boring yellow stuff I’ve eaten my whole life from the store, or from a can…it just can’t live up.  But let’s get to something more interest about this job.  Let’s talk about the people.   The best part of this job is not the corn– it’s the people you get to meet and talk to while you’re selling the stuff.   Every day I pick a “customer of the day” who stands out in terms of being interesting.   Let me give you an example.   One day last week, the winner was a lady who drove up, looked at the water melons and asked, “Are those seedless?”   I replied that they are still from Arizona (no local melons yet) and that they are seedless.   She explained that she would never buy a seedless melon because they’ve been genetically altered and probably have terrible chemicals in them.   Having just eaten some, my stomach started churning a bit.   But then she went on to tell me that “they” (whoever “they” are) are experimenting with putting contraceptives in corn.

Hmm.  I said, “Well, this corn was grown and picked this morning in West Weber, Utah, so I doubt it has any contraceptives in it.”  Then after thinking for about 3 seconds, I added, “and if they are doing it with the Utah corn, it isn’t working.”    She agreed, chuckled, and drove off.

How about the winner last Friday?  Well, I have started a little marketing trick.  I find an ear of corn that is damaged that I might normally throw away because it has a dent or gash on one side, and I open it up on the good side to show what it looks like.  It is the yellow and white, “salt-and-pepper” corn, and it looks pretty.  So people like seeing it.   Anyway, Kenny had come by and liked my idea and opened another ear, so I now had two demo cobs there on the table.   A woman showed up during the day, delightfully grabbed the ear that Kenny had opened and popped it into her bag, then went to grab my previous demo ear as she exclaimed, “Wow! It is even pre-husked!”   I stopped her and said that the cob she was taking had a big dent in the back and that I was only using it for demonstration.   “Oh, darn, they aren’t pre-husked?  That would have saved me some time…”

If you ever see “pre-husked” corn that’s been sitting on a table in the 95 degree summer weather all day, don’t take it.  It’s better when it’s still in the husk, even if you have to take the stuff off yourself before you boil or grill your corn.   Just so you know…

OK, I only have time for one more.   Saturday’s winner was a couple that I’ll lovingly call Granola Girl and Pretty Boy.  They were  a pair of college students that came to buy fresh corn.   She was the typical granola type, with a tie-die tank-top, no bra, and no make-up, etc.  He was a pretty boy with ear rings, a shirt with sparkles, and that smooth voice that suggests he probably likes other pretty boys more than granola girls.

Anyway, they said they wanted some corn, so I went to hand them a plastic bag to hold their goods.  “No thanks!” the girl said with disgust, “I don’t need another wasteful petroleum product in my car!”   I apologized and put the plastic bag away.   The guy started selecting corn.  He would gingerly squeeze the very top of each ear, then smell it like a fine perfume.   “Nope, not this one.  Oh yes!  This one is great!”  He went through the pile choosing the perfect ears which he would hand one at a time to the girl who was trying to keep them balanced in her arms.

“Most people just look for the biggest or the smallest, youngest ears, or whatever,” I said.

“Well, I am from OHIO, and we do things VERY differently in OHIO,” he said with a smirk.

After he managing to squeeze and smell his way to the six best ears, I said, “So, you can tell by smelling them.  That’s cool.”

“Oh, I was in Walmart today and I smelled their corn.  It smelled like dirty socks!”

“Well, it was probably picked in China,” I joked.

Then Granola Girl got a look of concern.  “Is this corn grown with pesticides or is it organic?”

I was about to answer that I have no idea, but it might have contraceptives in it.  But Pretty Boy came to the rescue.  “Of course it has pesticides, with all the bugs in THIS state!”

Well, they did pay, and they carried their corn back to her car and drove away.   I wish I could tell you about yesterday’s winner, Agnostic man (who had a great interaction with a sweet old lady who was shopping at the same time).

“There’s no heaven or celestial kingdom!”

“Oh, yes there is!”

See what kinds of things pop up out of nowhere while you’re selling corn?

-Todd

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3 Responses to “Corn Stories”

  1. Todd, I loved this blog! I wish we lived closer to get some of that corn. I admit to being a picky corn person too. I smell, and pinch the ends too, but also peel back at the tip a teeny bit, (but not much so it can be put back in place) to see if the top kernels are nice, and not all deformed. I especially liked this blog because you showed how rewarding this job can be, despite the heat and odd customers at times. In many ways these kinds of jobs can bring more happiness and fun than some other jobs. Thanks for sharing! Post some pics sometime.

  2. I didn’t think this post would be so interesting, but the stories were fascinating and your perspective is great.

    Using “demo corn” is a great idea, somewhere there’s a connection to the music industry and a way to get fans to buy “locally grown synthpop with no contraceptives”.

    In college, I used to go to the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, and over the years it grew to have live music, sponsors, and lots of happy people enjoying corn and entertainment.

  3. Todd,
    Where I grew up, we had a “King Corn Carnival”. I remember marching in the parade, playing tri-toms (drums!). Keep on with the blog, you write well, no matter the subject.

    Always,
    E.


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