Heirloom popcorn

30 Jul 2016
3 min read
Farmer Gene produces Tiny But Mighty Popcorn made in Iowa, USA, an heirloom variety of corn that has covered North America for thousands of years. FOUR finds out more about this favourite treat…

A day in the life of Farmer Gene changes as much as the weather. Each new season brings with it new challenges, responsibilities and new opportunities for growth. That’s how agriculture is and that’s the nature of a business like Tiny But Mighty, a company whose owners handle all aspects of the business from start to finish. The best way to get a feel for a day in the life of Farmer Gene is to break it down by season.

When it comes to our popcorn, you won’t find anything else quite like it! Our popcorn is a super premium variety of corn with unique flavour and story. It’s an heirloom popcorn (or maize) native to North America and claims the title “heirloom” because the genetic makeup of the plant is virtually identical to the corn that covered North America for thousands of years.

My spring days are filled with planting intentions – deciding how many acres of seed to plant so we can produce the right amount of inventory; looking at seed for germination to help determine how many seeds to plant per acre; deciding the right time to plant the seeds come May; delivering seed to his other growers for their crop; getting the crop in ground and making sure that everything is coming up correct. Then, everything goes into manufacturing, which means focusing on expansion – such as a new receiving facility – which will help ensure we aren’t outgrowing our ability to grow the corn.

Come summertime, as the crop is rapidly growing, the time comes to really focus on any repairs or maintenance needed to the equipment and the business is ready for harvest season in the fall.

Fall is the most important time of the year for me. Everything we’ve done from the beginning of the year up to that point focuses on seed selection and the quality of the crop. At this time, I carefully select seeds for the crop, looking at each individual plant and taking weather into account. There’s a very delicate balance between keeping what has worked and adding in biodiversity. Seed selection in the fall has me visiting each field leading up to harvest time. Harvest time is a lot of moving parts that are crucial; the corn has to come in, be cleaned, dried down and conditioned.

After the holiday season travel bumps up significantly. My days are filled with store visits and demos, educating the public about TBM, explaining why the product is so special and speaking to store employees, at festivals and Expos across the country. This is also the time when I start to look at new packaging for new products and begin work on new product development.

One of the most rewarding things for me is to meet grocery buyers and employees of store chains because I can educate them on why our product is so unique and they get excited about the product and pass on the knowledge and excitement to their customers.

I also enjoy working with farmers and teaching them that this is different corn than anything else they’ve ever seen. I love teaching them new ways to harvest.

And it’s always great to meet investors and bankers who are a big part of TBM. They are also excited to be part of something new in the world of food & popcorn and are invaluable to the company.

And last, but certainly not least, all the people who work for and with me. Tiny But Mighty is a family company and those who aren’t actual family become like family. I know I have a great crew of people and it’s wonderful and exciting to work with them.

TBM is a unique business model and product. The TBM team, me and my wife, Lynn, do it ALL from start to finish – grow the product, produce the commodity, harvest it, clean it, store it, manufacture it, sell it and promote it. The only thing I don’t love about my job is the paperwork that comes with running your own business.

Our corn is non-GMO certified and gluten free. The corn plant itself reaches a height of around three feet, with each stalk producing as many as 30 ears. The ears are typically 3-4 inches long, each loaded with tiny kernels about half the size of kernels in regular popcorn. The hull (shell) of each kernel is cooked away during the popping process, making it easier to chew and digest since it’s virtually hull-less. It’s grown and tastes the way popcorn should – wholesome and natural. The potential of this corn is endless and I am always working on new varieties to be developed – our unique heirloom is like a box of chocolates! The natural popcorn flavour is not to be beaten – it will change the way you think about popcorn forever.