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Producing Excellence

Garry Stuckmeyer

Waterloo, IL

Stuckmeyer Plants and Produce

Products: Horseradish, corn, wheat, plants and produce

Size of Operation: 175 acres

In Business Since: 1995

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit Illinois

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1995

Staying profitable in agriculture often requires flexibility in what crops are grown to be able to deliver what customers want. Garry Stuckmeyer, a 5th generation farmer, works with his wife, Diane, and his parents on what has become a year-round operation, evidencing a continuous evolution that capitalizes on opportunities at the same time it caters to consumer preferences.

In 1985 when the current family farm was started 25 miles south of St. Louis, the Stuckmeyers’ crop consisted entirely of vegetables, which were sold to local grocery chains. In the early 1990s, they built greenhouses to raise vegetable and bedding plants, which were also sold to local retailers. In 1996, the purchase of a roadside retail store, financed by Farm Credit Illinois, turned their focus to selling directly to area residents, who now can visit the Stuckmeyer store from April through October, and for a short time in December. What they’ll find there varies – pumpkins in October, Christmas trees in December, and plants and vegetables throughout the spring and summer.

The bounty of produce Garry raises includes vegetables like tomatoes, sweet corn, asparagus and zucchini, and fruits including strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon. A significant portion of the harvest is planted and harvested sequentially so that their customers have access to the freshest produce possible.

“We plant a little of each crop every week early, and then harvest every morning and sell the fresh produce that day,” Garry says. Picking the right amount takes a lot of coordination and experience. “My father and I are here every day, making decisions as we go,” Garry says. That means picking twice as much Friday through Sunday when weekend traffic increases sales. Garry also looks for ways to expand the vegetable season, using special water-filled planting towers that insulate young tomato plants early in the season so they can be started, and harvested, sooner. These efforts have paid off: “We’ve been successful because customers recognize our name and know our products are fresh.”

Delivering locally grown, same-day fresh produce was a significant opportunity, but it has not been the only one Garry has recognized. In 2000, he planted two acres of horseradish, a strong niche market that has led him to expand to 20 acres today, which produces 200,000 pounds of the root which is then sold to food processors as far away as the East Coast.

While farming is hard work – Garry usually starts his day at 6:30 and can still be at it after 10 – it’s worth it. “I think any time you start with a little seed and watch it grow into a plant, there’s a sense of satisfaction,” Garry says. “And there’s nothing like biting into a ripe tomato or eating that first ear of sweet corn each year.”

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