Williams Lake may be known for its Stampede, but corn could be a new draw.
On a hot September Thursday afternoon, everyone picking at Soda Creek Corn U-Pick had come from outside the region.
“We are going to visit our daughter in Quesnel,” Tony and Marilyn Kraayvanger from Invermere said. “She told us to buy some corn for supper and we saw the sign on the highway and came down here.”
G. James, en route to Prince George to visit a friend, said he didn’t want to show up empty handed for dinner.
“I’ve never picked corn before,” he said with a shrug.
Another couple from Grande Prairie held up a camera and asked if they could have a photograph taken too.
It’s their first time picking corn so why not get a photograph to prove it, they said.
Proprietor Linda Kaufman said her signs on the highway were made a few years ago by Schickworks in Williams Lake.
The family has had the u-pick for 31 years and has a huge number of return customers.
“Often I’ll see families two or three times in a season,” Kaufman said, noting people will return to pick the fresh corn for their freezers.
Kaufmans opened for picking on Aug. 12, which is two weeks earlier than normal.
“Our record-to-date was Aug. 15,” Kaufman said, adding business has been steady.
Aside from the u-pick they have a commercial corn picker, used to prepare shipments to destinations between Prince George and 100 Mile House.
“We also have been supplying the Langley warehouse for the Overwaitea Food Group for the past three years,” Kaufman said.
Recently a customer told Kaufman’s husband a compelling story about corn.
The man was in the German army. When Germany lost the Second World War, many starving soldiers, returning home on foot, stopped in a farmer’s field to rummage for food.
“That was the last time he’d eaten corn, and now he was visiting in Canada, and came with relatives to pick corn, and was exclaiming in German and broken English, ‘oh my God, this is delicious,’.”
It was nothing like what he’d eaten in the field so many decades ago, he said.
When asked if the bears frequent the 12 acres of u-pick corn fields she said the bears prefer the 80 acres of feed corn.
“We call it cow corn. It’s just straight starch — huge cobs. There’s nothing sweet about that corn at all.”
Under the shade of a small tree, Kaufman’s mother-in-law Margie was peeling apples.
She pointed to a restored 1941 restored John Deere Model B tractor.
“It had no electric starter, had to be started by turning over the fly wheel by hand,” Maggie explained. “It ran on gas or what was know at that time as tractor gas, similar to kerosene.”
It had 27 h.p on gas, 23 on tractor gas and was a very popular tractor.
At that time farms were smaller and every farmer needed a tractor. and 336,000 of these tractors were sold because they were small, cheap, and reliable.
The tractor was used by Kaufmans for several years in the early 60s, then retired, and was restored last year by her son.