“The corn is in”
are the sweetest words of summer.
by: Marianne R. Stanton
There is nothing like the taste of fresh corn, just picked from the field. Slathered with butter and graced with a sprinkling of salt, an ear of corn properly prepared is a meal unto itself.
Corn on the cob is a staple at summer clambakes and cookouts. It’s a perfect pairing with lobster, hamburgers straight from the grill and hot dogs. Scrape off the kernels and add them to cold salads, incorporate them in to a custardy mix of cream, eggs and cheese for a corn pudding, or mix them with cornmeal for pancakes. Toss them with a tangle of pasta, basil and blistered cherry tomatoes and you’ve got a simple yet heavenly summer supper worthy of being on any restaurant menu.
Supermarket corn trucked in from the mainland can’t hold a candle to corn grown on one of the island’s farms. By the end of July everyone is asking, “when will the corn be ready?”
Aug. 1 is Steve Slosek’s answer. For him the season at Moors End Farm off Polpis Road began in mid-May when the first seeds went in the ground. The cold spring meant the corn crop got a slow start, but the month-old seedlings shot up after a week-long heat wave around the Fourth of July.
It will be 68 days from the time of planting until the first ears are picked. Once harvested, they’ll fly off the shelves at the farmstand.
“We sell all that we grow. You can’t eat too much of it,” Slosek said of the passion people have for corn in the summer. He plants six to seven acres, devoting over a third of his arable land to the crop.
Slosek grows mostly Providence, a sweet corn with high sugar content and tender kernels. To maintain that flavor and tender crunch, Slosek said he steams his corn lightly.
”Never boil corn. You ruin it,” he said.
This year Slosek is particularly excited about his John Deere MaxEmerge, which deposits seed at intervals in the ground while he drives the machine along the tilled furrows. He planted his last crop of corn July 6, and expects to be picking those ears in 72 days, well into late September. Warm, sunny days are needed for optimum corn production. You can always irrigate if it doesn’t rain, Slosek said, but you can’t provide sunshine artificially.
Fingers crossed that hurricanes steer clear of Nantucket. The hurricane season began June 1, but Nantucket usually experiences them in midto late August and September. The high winds and winddriven salt spray are the culprits that can ruin crops.
Slosek has been growing corn at his family’s farm off Polpis Road since 1976.
“I thought I’d get a job at the FAA when I got out of the service,” said Slosek, who was an air-traffic controller at a U.S. military base in Germany. “When that didn’t happen I needed a job, so I started planting seed.”
Slosek farms the land that was previously a dairy farm owned by his father Stan, that he grew up on with his brothers Dan and Pat and sister Kathy. In 2000 Slosek and his siblings sold the development rights to 17 acres of the farm to the Nantucket Islands Land Bank but have the right to farm the land as long as they want. Steve and his wife Sue retained about five acres that their home and employee housing sits on as well as the farmstand, and greenhouses for flowers.
It’s likely the land will be under the Slosek family’s management for some time. Steve and Sue and their kids are all active in farming. While Steve oversees the corn and farm in general, Sue runs the farmstand. Sam, 42, focuses on tomatoes and the other vegetables while Abby, 41, specializes in the flower operation. Four other employees round out the staff.
The day I visited, Abby was arranging cut flowers from the field into bunches for sale. Snapdragons, cornflowers, zinnias and cosmos littered a table in the shed, while Abby and her husband Jeff’s 9-monthold baby Sadie crawled around them and was passed around to the older kids, Jacques and Lily. Big smiles were in abundance. Moors End Farm is a happy place.
“You have to understand that farming is a multigenerational business,” Steve said. “It takes a long time to learn it.”
While Nantucket has turned into an investment opportunity for finance types who see greater returns buying and flipping island real estate than the stock market provides, Slosek has a vastly different take on what owning land means. It’s a spiritual connection to something greater than oneself.
“We’re producers here. We grow things,” he said.
And they take great satisfaction in doing so. At 70, Steve still spends his days out in the field, on his tractor, tending his crops and reflecting on the state of affairs on the island. Nantucket has changed in many ways over the last few decades, but little is different at Moors End Farm. The farmstand is still a rustic open-air affair, with baskets of vegetables only grown on the farm. Dried flowers and herbs hang from the rafters, and jugs of maple syrup from Vermont, where Steve and Sue spend their winters in the Northeast Kingdom, line the shelves. Life is good here at Moors End Farm. ///
Marianne Stanton is founder of Nantucket Today and editor and publisher of this magazine and The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.