Local youth lend an ear for good cause

Alicia Biffar of the Monroe County 4-H Federation gathers ears of corn at the Hartman farm. (Robyn Dexter photos)

Members of the Monroe County 4-H Federation came together last Wednesday, Aug. 7, to gather corn for a good cause.

The group met at the Ken Hartman Jr. farm just across from Waterloo High School and traipsed through several rows to collect the sweet corn and load it up in the back of a truck.

Anita Hartman, Ken’s wife, said the group collected somewhere around 400 pounds of corn.

The donations were then taken to several different places in the area including Oak Hill, Western Egyptian E.O.C., the Monroe County Food Pantry and the Rosedale House.

Ken Hartman said he received the seed for the corn a few years ago from Monsanto and has kept the plot for 4-H and other community projects.

Last summer, they did not have much luck with the corn because of the extreme temperatures.

“It was 100 degrees and just didn’t work,” he said.

The corn is biotech sweet corn, which means it has an extra protein in it that protects from certain sweet corn pests.

Because of this, farmers like Hartman can reduce their pesticide usage while maintaining the corn’s quality.

“It’s great corn,” Hartman said. “We wanted to be able to give fresh corn straight out of the field (to the donation sites).”

Members of the Monroe County 4-H Federation gather around the truck bed full of corn they picked on Wednesday, Aug. 7. Pictured from left are Kevin Mosbacher (front left), Emilee Mosbacher, Kaleb Biffar, Ashley Hartman, Alicia Biffar, Graden Presler, Alexis Hartman and Curt Sondag (front right), the group’s sponsor. 

Emily Reece, the coordinator of the event, works with 4-H Youth Development at the University of Illinois Extension.

She said the event, though it was put together at the last minute, was a success.

“The corn was ready, so we knew it had to be picked soon,” she said.

The group had a 4-H meeting last Wednesday, so Reece said that also helped get them organized to go pick the corn that same day.

“I reached out to the kids on Facebook because that seems to be the best way to contact them,” she said.

Members who came to pick corn were Kevin and Emilee Mosbacher, Kaleb and Alicia Biffar, Ashley and Alexis Hartman, and Graden Presler.

4-H sponsor Curt Sondag also helped the group.

Though Reece said she has not heard much feedback from the places the corn was delivered, they were grateful when the corn was dropped off.

“They were very happy for the donation because it’s quite a bit of corn,” she said.

Projects such as this happen frequently throughout the area, with “GIFT gardens” being grown at locations such as the Bellefontaine House and Peterstown House, both in Waterloo.

GIFT stands for Growing Illinois Foods Together, and these locations donate the produce they have grown to services in the area.

Though last week’s 4-H corn picking at Hartman’s farm was not directly a GIFT garden, the mission was similar.

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