John Harold, the founder and owner of Olathe’s Tuxedo Corn Company is a veritable encyclopedia of Western Slope agriculture. He admits he’s lost track of whether it’s the 39th or 40th harvest, but he’s certain that his company will pick some 550 to 600,000 ears of corn, starting between July 21 and 23.
The trademarked “sweet sweet” corn will then be shipped across the country to Virginia and Georgia, through the midwest to California, Oregon, Washington State and up to Anchorage, Alaska.
“Kroger (City Market),” Harold said, “runs its own trucks servicing Grand Junction, Delta, Montrose and Gunnison counties.” There are 48 ears of corn per case. Walk-in peddlers and roadside vendors purchase about 20,000 cases from the refrigerated storage room of the company’s headquarters on Hwy. 50 West in Olathe.”
The physics of Olathe sweet corn depends on getting the cob temperature to 38 degrees, preventing the sugar from turning into starch which allows the corn to retain its remarkable sweet flavor. The ideal is to ship the product within 24 hours of harvest.
Corn is not the only crop growing on Harold’s 1,500 acres. About 600 to 700 acres are planted in seeds — pumpkin, squash, cucumber, as well as corn.
Harold sees a bright future for Western Colorado agriculture with the state’s first right to water from the Colorado River defined by the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement among the seven southwest U.S. states that fall within the drainage basin of the Colorado River. The pact governs the allocation of the river’s water rights.
About 160 male migrant workers from foreign countries are here on H-2a visas, a temporary agricultural program which helps American farmers fill employment gaps by hiring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform farm labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.
The H-2a visa requires the employer to provide housing if the worker cannot return to his permanent residence within the same day. The employer must provide safe housing and daily transportation to and from the worksite. And the employer must provide workers’ compensation and any required tools, supplies and equipment at no cost to the worker.
Mavis Bennett is a freelance writer for the
Montrose Business Times.