The local food movement is a powerful, beautiful thing. So much that it has elevated New Carlisle, Ohio-based farmer Ray Brentlinger and his non-GMO sweet corn to star status here in Dayton. We barely have to whisper the name “Brentlinger” and mouths start to water as it’s synonymous with the summer staple that Ray brings to our stores. So what makes Brentlinger sweet corn so good?
Let’s start with the deep roots of the farm, established by Ray’s father in 1952. “He put out a tent … they couldn’t afford paper bags so they wrapped it in newspaper,” Ray says of his family’s first corn stand. The sweet corn sold itself, and from there the business took off and the rest is history. Now, the Brentlinger family operates two farm stands in addition to bringing sweet corn to Dorothy Lane Market seven days a week once the season is in full swing.
Ray Brentlinger attributes the land itself as a big contributor to growing such a high quality of sweet corn, as the soil is moist yet drains well, leaving it rich and ideal for the shallow-rooted crop. The farm is bordered by the Mad River, providing natural irrigation. Plus, hidden beneath the soil you’ll find an underground irrigation system that’s been in place since 1970. “You have to have plenty of water for sweet corn,” Ray says, something that can be quite a challenge for many crops in the sweltering heat of the summer. Ideal growing conditions are just one piece to the puzzle though when it comes to ensuring a sweet corn sensation year after year from the crop at Brentlinger’s Farm Market.
The Right Conditions & a Dose of Personality from Ray Brentlinger
When you meet Ray Brentlinger, he greets you with a hug and leaves you with a Brentlinger’s Farm T-shirt. He’s smiling and spry and loves to share a knee-slapping kind of laugh with his company. He’s someone you’d want to enjoy a cold glass of iced tea with, but don’t sit down, because Ray’s on his feet (or driving in his Gator) and ready to share with you his passion for his farm, machinery, and his smart methodologies for always making sure Brentlinger is the best sweet corn around.
Ray has pretty much grown corn for his whole life, learning the ins and outs as a child from his father. He went on to The Ohio State University to further that education receiving his bachelor’s degree in horticulture. In 1971, he immersed himself in the family business once again, and it truly is a family affair today with his son Andrew, his wife Terri, his brother Tom, sister Linda, and sister-in-law Kathi all taking part.
Besides a healthy dose of enthusiasm, Ray’s expertise shines, as he’s always planting test plots of sweet corn each year. He does this so he can experiment with growing new varieties available—a sure bet that his next crop of sweet corn for the following year will lead the pack in flavor. He says to keep an eye out for not only his signature white sweet corn, but for the yellow as well, as he’s pretty excited about a variety called Honey Select.
Getting That First Bite of Brentlinger Sweet Corn
Each year, there’s a big question on everyone’s minds as the heat of July sets in. When will Brentlinger’s sweet corn make its debut at DLM? It’s here now and first made its debut this year just in time for the Fourth of July. Ray explains how he started planting this year on April 12. He farms 70 acres of sweet corn by planting 10 acres at a time and then waits for its growth to start to show before planting the next 10 acres. This is how he ensures Brentlinger corn through Labor Day. But early May caused Ray pause, as cooling temps hit. In recounting those days, Ray’s always smiling face grows serious for a moment, and you can tell that the weather had him worried. Luckily, things started to warm up just in time and now all is well.
Luckily, that small hiccup did not delay things really at all.
Now that the season is in full swing, Ray and his team awake before the sun every morning to start picking. Then, he loads up the truck and makes his daily deliveries to DLM. When the corn arrives each morning, the husks are damp with the morning dew and Ray is smiling, often with a promised T-shirt in hand ready for one of his local corn fans.