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Hines' Western Slope sweet corn behind but 'looks real good’

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | July 07, 2010
Delta, CO, farmer Brent Hines said in late June that his Olathe-area sweet corn was "a little behind schedule because of the cooler spring weather" the region had experienced, but he added, "It looks real good this year."

Mr. Hines now runs the growing operation at Hines Farms while his father, longtime Colorado produce grower-shipper Jerry Hines, oversees the onion shed operations and assists in the fields "as needed."

The younger Mr. Hines told The Produce News that he did not use drip irrigation on the fields this season.

"Our spring was so dramatic that I didn't use drip on any of the crops," he said. "It stayed wet, and I just decided not to use the drip."

In 2009, he had used drip on about half his onion acreage and also on some of the sweet corn, but this year there was no need.

"Water is good," he said, adding, "The cold weather was the big thing. We are about four days behind schedule right now with the corn, but we should have some the week of July 17."

Mr. Hines grows some 300 acres of corn, with about two thirds planted in bi- colored, a third in yellow and a small percentage in white sweet corn. His son, Brenton, grows another 25 acres.

Hines Farms is also well known for its onions, and this year Brent Hines has 100 acres planted, with 60 percent in yellows and the balance evenly split between whites and reds. Brenton Hines is growing 15 acres, all in yellows.

"Brenton is farming full-time now," Brent Hines said. "He went to college for a year, but he really likes the farm."

Early onion harvest will begin around Sept. 1, with volume hitting as the season continues.

The shed, which is USDA-inspected and GAP-certified, packs the onions, which are sold by Mike Benben Inc., Jerry Hines and Race-West Marketing. Brent Hines said that onions are shipped to Texas, Louisiana, New York and the Eastern Seaboard.

Corn is packed and sold through Tuxedo Corn Co., Mountain Quality and Mountain Fresh, and it is shipped "all over - to Phoenix, California, Texas and the Midwest," Mr. Hines said.

He added that securing transportation is "harder and harder" and production costs "keep edging up," but Mr. Hines concurred with other shippers on the Western Slope regarding labor.

Slowdowns in construction have increased the agriculture labor pool, and he said, "We haven't had any problems so far this year. There are H2A [guest worker programs] in the area, so I think we should be OK. Plus, there are local workers who are available this year."

(For more on Colorado produce, see the July 12, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)