HAMBURG, NY - Corn is one crop that escaped the worst of this year's drought, according to Bill Zittel. The Zittel family has been farming in Eden Valley since 1896. Today, Zittel's focuses on 14 major crops on hundreds of acres. 70 acres are dedicated to corn, another 70 acres to lettuce and about 50 acres to peppers. That's in addition to a wholesale flower business and a retail operation, Zittel's Country Market in Hamburg.
This time of year is a busy one at the farm as workers hand pick ear after ear of corn. "On an average day, 300 to 500 bags of corn we pick in morning times 60 ears. So if you're doing 500 bags times 60, you're picking a lot of ears of corn," Zittel said. Those bags are loaded onto trucks that head out to farm markets across Central and Western New York.
Zittel says the drought didn't impact the corn crop because of his irrigation system. He says too much rain is usually worse on the crops because you can't remove the water, but you can always add it. This year, corn came in ahead of schedule thanks to the warm weather.
Keeping up with weather conditions is just one challenge that farmers face. They also have to deal with pest control, government food guidelines and more.
But Zittel is hoping that the family tradition lives on. "I'm 4th generation and hopefully we'll get the next generation that wants to come back," he said. "I tell the kids you have to have it in your heart, not in your head that you want to come back." He says that's because farming is a way of life, but one that has been impacted by computers and technology just like other industries.
Most people don't realize that farmers only get one ear of corn from each corn stalk. The sugar all goes to the top ear while the bottom ear is not edible.
Not to worry.. Zittel says there will be plenty of corn for the annual Eden Corn Festival in August.