Famous for Mirai sweet corn, Harvard’s Twin Garden Farms is all about celebrating family and building friendships with every new customer.
A little bit west of the town of Harvard is a treasure of golden corn – Mirai® corn to be specific. Founded by George and Ruth Ahrens, Twin Garden Farms is managed by third- and fourth-generation family members.
It’s widely agreed that Twin Garden’s Mirai hybrid sweet corn is the most delicious, tender corn available.
Gary Pack’s family moved to Harvard in 1968. Every summer since then, he has worked exclusively at Twin Garden Farms, the farm that his grandparents founded. Three third-generation family members are current partners who run the business.
“I love the farm and the people who come here,” he said.
In 2001, the partners sold all the heavy farm equipment and cut back from 3,500 acres to 200 acres of sweet corn. Twin Farms is trying to get away from big farm practices and stay small and local.
“I don’t like big,” Pack said. “We focus on selling our corn at local farmers’ markets in response to our customers. We can’t expect them all to drive out to us.”
People nonetheless continue to drive from miles away for the Mirai corn; 247 miles was the longest distance that Pack could recall of a family that took a day trip just to buy their corn.
A Happy Accident
The creation of Mirai was actually an accident. “There was no vision; this delicious crop happened when three sweet corn genes actually melted and worked together,” Pack explained. From that “accident” their only goal was to give a quality product to their customers.
And the corn is perfect. “We have no magic behind this once the seed is in the ground,” Pack continued. “It has no starch in it. It is extremely hard to get out of the ground because it doesn’t have the vigor from the starch like normal seeds of the embryo. So the key is a good seed bed and some warm temperatures.”
Twin Garden also sells eight varieties of corn seeds.
One of Pack’s favorite stories is about his connection with late radio great Paul Harvey. “Paul loved corn,” Pack recalled. “He called me and wanted me to send him some corn. I did; and shortly thereafter I met him at his office in Chicago. So here comes this guy in a bright blue leisure suit and with a cane and says, ‘Hello, Gary, I am Paul Harvey.’ And I am thinking, no kidding, I am a farmer from Harvard.
“We talk for one-and-a-half hours,” he said. “I talked about my grandparents. He talked about Angel (Harvey’s wife and producer). We didn’t talk business … only sweet corn and family. Shortly after he came to the farm, he sat in our tent for two hours talking to people. That was absolutely beyond real.”
Pack and Harvey turned out to be friends. “Paul and I connected and I cared about him,” Pack said. “I am a changed person because I met Paul Harvey.
“It’s About People and Family”
Pack’s caring tendencies carry over to the customers who come to the farm.
“I love the people because those are the ones that I can make happy with something as simple as corn,” he said. “The farm business is not glamorous nor does it rake in a large income. It’s about people and family. I meet great people. That’s the key.
“We are fortunate to be located where we are … near Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Quad Cities, Peoria and Champaign,” he explains. “We have a customer who comes here in a van – three times a year – to pick up three to four boxes of corn.
“He jumps out of the car and has three of four dogs that jump out of the van with him and he always says to me, ‘I love you man,’ and he gives me a big hug. This is what we are
>>Twin Garden Farms’ famous handpicked Mirai® corn is available at a number of local farmers markets listed at wingardenfarms.com. Twin Garden Farms Roadside Market is located at 23017 W. Route 173 in Harvard. Call 815-943-7448 for more.
Sidebar: “The Taste of the Future”
What does the future taste like? Take a bite (raw or cooked) of a fully mature ear of any of the Mirai® hybrids to find out.
Mirai (pronounced ME-rye) was developed in Harvard and has the unique qualities of sweetness, tenderness and actual corn flavor all in the same ear. The seed was introduced to Japan where there is a tradition of seeking out quality food and they named it Mirai, which translates to “taste of the future.”
So how was it created? It took the features of three types of corn: Supersweet types (SH2) have high sugar for shipping but are tough and do not have good corn flavor. Sugar Extenders types (SE) are very tender and have good flavor but are not sweet and sugary. Types (SU) have old-time sweet corn flavor but are not tender or sweet. Combining these three types has led to this wildly popular corn that features the best taste, flavor and texture available in sweet corn today.
~ Source: miraicorn.com