It is a vacant gravel lot next to the Reeds Marine warehouse at the north end of Lake Delavan. Every day, all summer long, residents and visitors pilgrimage to the Sweet Corn Lady and Daughters green and yellow farm stand to find the best tasting fruits and vegetables found anywhere in southeast Wisconsin. The thin blue lines spray painted in the gravel are just a suggestion of where to park. Most just pull off of Highway 50 and park as close as they can get to the stand. The stand is misnamed. Jerry Lee is the Sweet Corn Lady; has been since 1957. She has three daughters who have children of their own. So the Sweet Corn Lady and Daughters and Granddaughters might be more accurate. Of course there are friends and other relatives who work there as well. So to be entirely correct the stand should be called the Sweet Corn Lady and Daughters and Granddaughters and Extended Family and Friends. One of the yellow shirted family will offer you a slice of something that was picked yesterday. It tastes like a fond memory from a long time ago. It is sweet and full of juice that dribbles down your chin. Finish that and another sample will be offered.
Theresa Lee manages the stand for her mother. To Theresa it is a legacy, a proud tradition that represents joy and sweat and tears of a family farm over 50 years old. This is a humble group who doesn’t want their pictures taken. “It isn’t about us,” they say. Neither their sign nor their humility tell the whole story. In the off season, Jerry and Theresa do taxes and sell insurance. Most importantly they make use of their harvest. “Mom makes the best apple pie, apple crisp, and tater tot casserole in the world,” says Theresa.
Growing food is a personal expression of who we are. It is also a grand test of letting go of the control we want to have over our lives. Once the seed is planted, we must wait until nature finishes the process. Nature has a funny sense of how a tomato should look. There are those that one can find at the Piggly Wiggly, grown perfectly red and round to fit in a shipping box. Actually nature had little to do with those. Science was perfected to grow the perfect Crayola Red tomato and one that wouldn’t bruise during shipping. They only lack in flavor and nutrients. So when a customer visits the Sweet Corn Lady and says that the tomatoes are ugly because they are not uniformly round and red like a Styrofoam Christmas ornament; it is as if someone has looked into your stroller and said that you have an ugly baby. Theresa has found the answer. Provide a sample of everything that they grow when you walk up to the stand. The taste of natural imperfection is extraordinary.