Baldwin County – King of Sweet Corn
Chilton County is known for tasty peaches. Slocomb is famous for delicious tomatoes. But when it comes to sweet corn, Baldwin County is king. Just ask Todd Cassebaum, 44, who has been growing the golden crop since he was 8 years old.“I was born on this farm, and when I was young my dad saw other people selling sweet corn and decided to try it,” Todd said. “My daddy started by planting six rows on the side of a field. My sister and I sold the extra in a neighbor’s yard up on the road and we sold all the extra we had. Back then, we sold the corn for $3.50 a bushel. We each made $180 apiece that first year and put our money together to buy a trampoline.”As demand for the sweet corn grew, so did the acres planted on the Cassebaum’s diversified farm. Cousins joined in to help sell the sweet corn, and a full-fledged family business took root. Planting increased to a whopping 45 acres in the early 1990s.
“We only plant Silver King sweet corn,” Todd said. “It’s the best, no doubt. My favorite way to eat it is boiled on the cob, with salt and butter.”Cars filled with customers line up to buy corn by the bushel or the dozen. Many have been coming to Cassebaum Farms for decades and say they can’t find any better.“I come every year,” an elderly lady told Todd’s wife, Hope, as she paid for two bushels. “It’s absolutely delicious. I love it.”Todd serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Horticulture Committee. Hope is on the Baldwin County Farmers Federation board of directors and has been accepted into the upcoming A.L.F.A. Leaders program. Together with their two children, Kelsey, 17, and August,16, they farm 1,000 acres east of Elberta near Lillian. In addition to 25 acres of sweet corn, they have 400 acres of peanuts, 180 acres of cotton, 120 acres of field corn, 15 acres of peas and butter beans, two acres of watermelons and cantaloupes, 30 acres of pecan trees and 200 beef brood cows. “Peanuts are our major crop, but as far as produce, we focus on the sweet corn,” Todd said. “It’s the easiest for us to grow and has made us the most money.”During planting season, Todd typically plants three acres of sweet corn each week for eight or nine weeks. That way, the corn doesn’t all come in at the same time, he said. The farm also enjoys a sizeable clientele who enjoy peas, butter beans and melons grown there.The Cassebaums use a mechanical harvester that picks three rows of sweet corn at a time and deposits it into a wagon. The wagon is pulled to the farm’s produce shed where corn is sacked by hand into bushel bags (60 ears each) or plastic bags by the dozen.The work progresses like a well-oiled machine as family members join in. The corn is picked on an as-needed basis and any that’s left at the end of the day is spread back onto the picked field.
“We only sell it fresh-picked that day,” Todd said.Hope said she loves farming and is especially thankful she and Todd raised their children on the farm.“I love that our kids work here with us,” she said. “They’ve done it since they were in kindergarten. They’ve learned that hard work pays off. When each of them turned 16, they had saved enough money to buy the car they wanted. Not many kids can say that.”
Hope also likes interacting with the customers and seeing them year after year.“It’s satisfying to sell something that our family raised and know people are going to take it home and serve it to their family,” she said.Cassebaum Farms is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and is located at 31450 West Maidmont, Lillian, Ala.