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Community sweet corn field benefits hurricane victims

Volunteers set up crates in which to put sweet corn from a field in Wahpeton, N.D., on Aug. 31, 2017. The corn was to be shipped to Texas for Hurricane Harvey relief. (Scott Muehler, Special to Agweek)1 / 2
Volunteers pick sweet corn in a field in Wahpeton, N.D., on Aug. 31, 2017. Corn from the field had been used for several community group benefits, and approximately 20,000 pounds was to be sent to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. (Scott Muehler, Special to Agweek)2 / 2

WAHPETON, N.D. — It started with a lot full of weeds, a bit of an eyesore in a residential area in Wahpeton. But, oh, how much more it became.

Scott Muehler called his City Councilman, Steve Dale, to complain about the approximately five-acre lot, located behind his house. The City Council got the landowner's blessing to put a sweet corn field there, with the intention of growing enough corn for a fundraiser corn feed to benefit the fire department.

Farmers Jim Maranowski and Mark Knutson planted the field, donating the inputs. Then, while the rest of North Dakota struggled with drought this growing season, the southeastern corner remained lush.

"We were blessed with a good rain this year," Muehler said.

The Community Corn Feed, Muehler said, fed 600 people. And six different groups came and picked corn for various efforts.

"Our community has benefited greatly from this," he said.

Still there were cobs in the field.

"Logistically, we need to get this corn used someplace," Muehler said.

Then, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

The people of Wahpeton started talking about how to get some sweet corn to the Houston area. Working with the Great Plains Food Bank and Jamie Good, local foods specialist at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the community lined up a place to take a semi load — which will mean an estimated 20,000 pounds of fresh sweet corn to help feed the victims of the hurricane.

"If the victims down there can benefit from this, that's just an unbelievable blessing," Muehler said.

"So many people are helping us (in North Dakota) with hay donations," Good said. "It's nice that we're able to help someone else outside of here."

Muehler asked a friend, Terry Pehl of TLP Trucking, if Pehl could help find a driver. Pehl came back and said he and his wife would take the load themselves.

Any number of snags have come up with the plan, but Muehler said they've all been worked out, one by one. One lingering concern, how to pay for the fuel, was taken care after people offered donations without anyone asking for them.

On Thursday, Aug. 31, community members picked the corn, which then needed to be fumigated to meet Texas standards of entry. Muehler expected a big crew to show up, as community organizations had jumped at the chance to put out the word.

Even after the semi is loaded, Muehler expects the field may have some more cobs left to give.

The community involvement has astounded Muehler, who believes the little corn field might become an annual thing for Wahpeton.

"It's amazing what can happen from five acres," he said.