More than three decades ago Bill and Alma Hole started turning excess corn into a profit, and now 35 years later they are reflecting on their family business that has sent local produce home with thousands of people.
“Our planter, you have to have so much corn in there for it to work, and we’d always have too much,” Alma said. “I’d tell people to just come and get corn. I would take it in to Crawfordsville and try to give it away to people, and I went by Goerge Gooding’s (food stand) and I stopped in there and said would you want some of this corn?”
The Holes provided corn for Gooding’s Produce on the northside for many years, while becoming a mainstay roadside stand at their farm near Darlington.
Last Saturday marked the official opening of the 2020 produce season for Hole’s Sweet Corn. However, it will be the last for Bill and Alma, who are both in their early 80s. The couple plans to hand off the family business to their grandson Jordan Gillenwater and his wife Paige.
“We’ve kind of always joked that whenever they’re ready to retire, nobody will let them,” Gillenwater said. “There’s still a strong demand, and I think it is a trend bigger than just Montgomery County. A lot of people want to know where their food comes from.”
Gillenwater, a 2017 graduate of Purdue University and a local farmer, has expanded the produce business by adding baked goods and beef.
“People struggle financially to buy half of a cow,” he said. “People who knew we had cows would contact us and want to buy steaks or hamburger. I feel like in general it’s a higher quality beef that you’re going to get from us than you would at the store.”
Gillenwater’s wife, Paige, who is new to farming, has helped taken on the challenge of baked goods.
“It’s been a nice perspective,” Gillenwater said of his wife. “I kind of like having someone who knows nothing about farming come in here, because I feel like something Paige wants to see is something other people might want to see that we never think of.”
Gillenwater said they are raising about 40 cows a year, and harvesting close to 15 acres of sweet corn as well as green beans and tomatoes.
While the Holes will pass the torch, the community will be able to continue savoring their sweet corn for generations to come. And they will continue to be greeted by that same small farm feeling.
“People visit a lot,” Alma said. “I cannot tell you how many times people will get their corn, they’d visit and then drive around and stop and say ‘I forgot my corn.’”
That’s something that will never change.