BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Before sunrise each morning, Bill Ryan heads out to the field to harvest enough rows of sweet corn to fill the baskets in the Ryan Farms stand that has been a staple of the Monclova Township community for 55 years.
“It’s all TripleSweet Gourmet,” he said, naming the type of seed used for corn that’s received rave reviews for decades.
Every year around April 7, Bill begins planting several rows of sweet corn, adding more rows as soon as he sees the sprouts come up from the prior week’s batch. That ensures that the corn he harvests daily from about mid-July until mid-September will be at its peak. While the type of seed is key in getting that sweet flavor, so is the placement of the field.
“They say don’t plant sweet corn within 500 feet of field corn,” he said, motioning to the 40 or so acres behind the farm buildings. “The woods separate us from the field corn.”
As a young couple, Bill and his wife, Vicky, bought a portion of the farmland that had been in the Ryan family since 1955, and in 1966, they launched Ryan Family Farms, growing feed and produce to sell not only in the stand but also at market. Their sons, Mark and Luke, and daughters, Angie Barney and Sara Torres, all grew up on the farm and added knowledge through 4-H and FFA, eventually getting involved in ag-related careers.
Luke launched Ryan Club Lambs in 1993 and now his wife, Dayna, and their children, Case and Rose, are involved in raising show lambs. Luke also raises hay, grain crops and straw, and he owns Mosquito Fighters.
Mark launched the grain farm GooMar Farms in 1999 and along with his wife, Julie, and children, Jocelyn and Joe, raises livestock for 4-H projects.
3N Livestock was established in 2002 by Tim and Angie Barney and their sons, Nick, Nathan and Nolan, to raise meat and show hogs. A farm-to-freezer market on the farm of Nick and Chelsea Barney on Monclova Road offers meat for sale. The family also raises show and market hogs.
Daughter Sara Torres lives in Tucson, Ariz., with her husband, Bob, and children, Austin, Brandon, Canyon and Shyann. They operate ABCS Farm, raising livestock in Arizona, but also returning to the Weckerly Road farm every summer to help with the planting and harvest.
“It’s a way of life,” Vicky said.
In the summer, the grandchildren come to help with the morning produce setup, but with school back in session, the Ryans are getting help from friends Judy Carter and Hank Barney – Angie’s father-in-law.
As Vicky and Judy sort through ears on a turntable, Hank inspects the corn coming off a conveyer belt – looking for ears that might be too small or showing signs of being sub-par. Corn that’s not up to selling for human enjoyment will work just fine for feeding livestock, Vicky explained.
In addition to corn for the farm stand, a large crate is filled for distribution by the Toledo Seagate Food Bank. At times, the Anthony Wayne Community Food Ministry will pick up bags of corn as well. The remainder will be sold at a large, Amish-run produce market in LaGrange, Ind.
Indiana, however, isn’t the furthest destination for Ryan’s corn. On a white poster board hung on the door to the farm stand, customers write where the corn will be headed next. This year, Ryan’s sweet corn will be headed to Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Michigan and North Carolina relatives and friends. Other customers include those from Maumee, Waterville, Whitehouse and, as one person wrote, “Toledo in the ’hood.” StoryPoint and Ohio Living Swan Creek chefs utilize the corn on their menus, and someone delivers ears to friends at the Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant.
While the summer season’s offerings of corn, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini will soon wane, the farm stand will begin stocking pumpkins, straw, corn bundles and mums.
Ryan Farms is located at 3996 Weckerly Rd. Bring cash to put in a drop box, as the farm stand operates on a trust basis that’s worked for 55 years.