Breaking News Bar

The Corn Crib Shawneetown corn stand offers tremendous story, produce

  • Shirley Ahrens of Shawneetown displays a fresh ear of Mirai sweet corn.

    Shirley Ahrens of Shawneetown displays a fresh ear of Mirai sweet corn.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • In this photo, Don Ahrens' father, George Ahrens, is seen in a photo printed on the front page of the Chicago Tribune with sweet corn in 1939.

    In this photo, Don Ahrens' father, George Ahrens, is seen in a photo printed on the front page of the Chicago Tribune with sweet corn in 1939.
    PHOTO PROVIDED

  • A large selection of tomatoes and other products greets visitors to the Corn Crib in Shawneetown.

    A large selection of tomatoes and other products greets visitors to the Corn Crib in Shawneetown.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
Posted on 8/5/2020, 2:15 PM

SHAWNEETOWN -- Loyal visitors to The Corn Crib just outside of Shawneetown on Illinois 13 already know it's the spot to buy treasured Mirai sweet corn.

What they may not know is the story behind one of the most desirable varieties of sweet corn in the world.

"We've been involved in sweet corn all my life," Don Ahrens, who with his wife Shirley owns The Corn Crib, says matter-of-factly.

He pulls out his wallet and produces an old black-and-white photo of a man crouched in a field of sweet corn, examining a cornstalk and ear. The photo has been laminated, and reads "George Ahrens, 1939, Chicago Tribune."

George Ahrens was Don's father, and on the Ahrens family farm revolutionized the sweet corn world with the development of Mirai.

"That was up at our farm at Harvard, Illinois, but we raised and sold sweet corn everywhere," Don said.

At one time, the family delivered sweet corn as far south as Fort Smith, Arkansas and north into Wisconsin.

Numerous accounts of the history of Mirai sweet corn, a tender, bicolor variety, have been written since it was developed on the Ahrens' Twin Garden farm near Harvard.

At The Corn Crib, the Don and Shirley are content to let the sweet corn's reputation bring the business.

"We had a couple come over here yesterday from St. Louis to buy 35 dozen ears," Shirley said. "I told them, 'you should have called. What if we were out? You would have wasted a trip.' and they just said, 'if you had been out, we'd have come back when you had more.' That's the kind of draw the Mirai has."

Sweet corn isn't the only produce at The Corn Crib. Eye-catching arrangements of tomatoes and other vegetables line display tables, and jars of other products also are available.

While many businesses have faced unusual challenges this year, The Corn Crib's biggest enemy has been the weather.

"We've been getting too much rain," Shirley said. "We got more rain than they got in Florida from the hurricane."

Don said since Thursday, July 30 -- not quite a week ago -- they've gotten seven inches of rain.

While all their produce is picked by hand, they use a tractor to haul the produce back, and the rain-soaked earth makes using the tractor difficult, they said.

In the meantime, they say they look forward to doing business with customers new and old.

The Corn Crib operates 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. They are closed Sundays.

To reach by phone, call (618) 841-4387 or (618) 841-6568. The Corn Crib also has a page on Facebook.