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Mazon family grows corn for those in need

MAZON – Generosity and helping others is prominent within the Grundy County agricultural community. So it came as no surprise to Chris Harford when he heard his friends Paul and Donna Jeschke were planting a field of sweet corn to give away to those in need.

“I thought it was a great idea, not only to help people in need, but to promote agriculture,” said Harford, a member of the Grundy County Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee. “I’m friends with the Jeschkes, and I wanted to help out in any way I could because they are friends and neighbors.”

The Jeschkes were approached by Chris and Cari Manns from The Trader’s Group a few years ago about planting a field of sweet corn that could be donated to needy families. They felt this year was the right time to help.

“It’s a good cause and it’s a small field,” Paul Jeschke said. “The opportunities just came together.”

Jeschke owns a 3.2 acre plot of farm field on Old Mazon Road, and it’s not fit to farm with his big equipment. So he reached out to others for help.

He typically plants seed corn and soybeans in his larger fields. Sweet corn is a bit more difficult to grow because it typically requires spraying for pests, he said. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the equipment for that.

But Monsanto donated GMO, or genetically modified, sweet corn seeds to the project, allowing Jeschke to plant the field without worrying about how he would spray pesticides.

“The GMO seeds made it much easier,” he said. “The crop looks very good.”

In addition to the Monsanto donation, the Jeschkes had help from other Young Farmer Committee members – Tyson Dollinger, Tim Kilmer, Jake Frobish and Nick Schaefer – as well as other farm community members.

The group gathered to harvest the field, with Dollinger driving the tractor, Jeschke working the harvester and others walking alongside to pick up any corn that didn’t make it into the awaiting basket.

“It’s a lot of work by a lot of people, not just the harvesting, but also planting and getting it ready to harvest,” Harford said. “Most people outside of the agricultural community don’t realize that when we have a task at hand, we can make a few phone calls and the whole community comes out to help. They show up without wanting anything in return.”

On harvest day, Carlos Rodriguez from the Greater Chicago Food Depository was on hand with the Manns to get the corn from the field to the table.

“It gives the urban and suburban communities a chance to connect with the agriculture community,” Harford said. “They learn the food doesn’t just appear from nowhere.”

Rodriguez, along with the Manns, worked with the owner of a sweet corn field in Marengo previously. Since then, they’ve learned to streamline the harvesting job, getting it to people’s tables within hours of being picked.

The Marengo farm works with the food depository and the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which services Grundy County.

So far this year, the NIFB and Greater Chicago Food Depository have brought in 20,000 pounds of sweet corn – even before the Jeschke farm donated the two tractor-trailer loads harvested last week. Some of that harvest was sent directly to We Care of Grundy County, which came and picked up a load of sweet corn for its clients.

If a farmer is interested in planting crops to donate to families in need they can contact:
• Northern Illinois Food Bank – Steve Ericson at 630-443-6910
• Greater Chicago Food Depository – Carlos Rodriguez at 773-843-2847

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