Students deliver on promised corn in Ravenna, Stow, Hudson

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

They promised to grow and pick hundreds of dozens of ears of corn to be sold in area stores.

And on Thursday, they delivered.

Students of the Next Frontier Academy, a charter school in Copley with an agricultural focus, grew corn at Deerfield Farms as their summer project. Over the past month, they have picked more than 1,000 ears of corn, said John Hairston, the Ravenna native who founded the school.

The corn is available locally for sale at Giant Eagle stores in Ravenna, Stow and Stow-Hudson, as well as Krieger's Market in Cuyahoga Falls.

Andy Bell, manager of the Ravenna store, displayed the corn alongside other locally grown produce from other farms. At the opposite end of the display is corn being sold by Brenckle Farms of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

"We try to support our community," Bell said. "There's nothing like a fresh ear of corn. It's unbelievable."

Hairston said so far the students have picked 800 dozen ears for the Giant Eagle stores alone. Other corn was sold at the school to raise money for programs there.

The students get a stipend for their labor, which is split among the other workers if they should be absent. Together, they pick about 250 dozen ears in each shift. On Thursday morning, before delivering corn to the Ravenna store, they picked 100 dozen in about 90 minutes.

"These kids are getting up at 6 a.m. and on the field by 7:30," Hairston said. "An hour later, they're soaking wet. And I hear no complaints from any of them."

Willy Clark, the 15-year-old "president" of the picking crew, said the work is not easy. The students work for two or three hours three times a week, fighting sharp edges that he said "feel like you're getting shanked," and fighting off raccoons, horse flies and worms that try to infest the corn.

But it's an experience he still recommends to others.

"It teaches you how to run your own business," he said. "It's a good opportunity."

Hairston thanked Giant Eagle for supporting the program, and John Wallbrown of Deerfield Farms, who is hosting a picnic for the students today.

"I can't say enough about what they do for us and our kids," he said.

Hairston, who founded the school last year, said there are only two schools in the nation with an agricultural focus. The other is in Kansas.

Phone: 330-298-1139

Email: dsmith@recordpub.com

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