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How sweet it is

Gunther’s Sweet Corn is the most visible aspect of the Csoff farming operation, but there is a lot more to it.

Tom Csoff stands by the family’s sweet corn stand
Tom Csoff stands by the family’s sweet corn stand at the farm on Highway 24. At 36 years of age, he was one of a new generation of farmers.

Tom Csoff, wife Alicia and Tom’s mother Helga are the current operators of a farm that has been in the family for 90 years. Located on County Road 24, near 59, the operation is well known for its sweet corn.

The operation is actually two farms side by side, comprising of 165 acres of tillable land. Originally tobacco was grown on both farms, but sweet corn was added in 1991.

“It was a diversification in addition to tobacco,” Tom said. “We thought we’d try something new. Our location gives good exposure to people going to Long Point and Turkey Point.”

His father Gunter, who died in 2015, was a well-known face in the community for his hours volunteering at the Delhi German Hall. He left tobacco in 2008 and moved to cash crops such as corn, beans and rye. In 2012, Gunther started growing pumpkins as well.

When they started into sweet corn, Tom says it was always his mother’s thing. Today, that’s still the case with Helga responsible for picking most of the corn. She uses a modified ride-a-prime from the tobacco farming days to go between the rows and handpick the ears.

The family decided to rebrand the long-time roadside stand as Gunther’s Sweet Corn to keep his name alive. Tom plants the corn and helps with picking if she has a large order or gets behind.

“I make sure she has corn to pick and she picks it,” he said. “I rent the rest of her land.”

Helga Csoff uses a ride-a-prime from the family’s tobacco farming days and
Helga Csoff uses a ride-a-prime from the family’s tobacco farming days and

His crops include asparagus, pumpkins, ginseng and squash. While the sweet corn is almost sold roadside, the other crops are sold through distributors.

Tom, 36, went to school for finance and after graduating he started working for TD in agriculture finance. He moved home in 2010 and made a job change to CIBC in 2011.

“I’ve been a home body all my life,” he said. “As a kid, I was oldest of three and the first to drive the tractor and truck. I farmed during university. This was my summer job. The love of farming drew me back.”

After moving home, he purchased his grandfather Mike’s farm, which is next door to the farm he grew up on. His grandfather moved out of tobacco in 1980.

Farming is a delicate balance of a day job, farming and family life for Tom and Alicia. She has an off-farm job in health care. Tom says he farms from 5-9, and adds “both of them”, meaning he starts at 5 a.m., farms until 9 a.m. and then works on the farm again after work until dark.

He utilizes 12 Jamaican offshore workers, who arrive in the spring for asparagus farming. Nine transfer to other farms in mid-July while the other three remain to assist with the rest of the crops. One offshore worker has been there 30 years and assists with supervising.

In his position with the bank, Tom has a unique insight into how young farmers are faring today in an era of record-high land prices and high capital costs.

“The young farmer today is 40,” he said. “They worked off farm for 10 years and the opportunity to return has presented itself.”

At 36, Tom fits most of that pattern, but is a little younger than average. Still, he is aware the average age of farmers is 60. On the positive side, he said five years ago there was a surge in younger farmers.

Tom and Alicia Csoff are continuing the family tradition on a farm in South Walsingham that has been in the family for more than 90 years.
Tom and Alicia Csoff are continuing the family tradition on a farm in South Walsingham that has been in the family for more than 90 years.

For Tom, farming is a family effort and he gives credit to the support from his mother and wife.

He has been trying to find the right mix of crops to make the farm profitable. For the first time in years, there are no corn or soybeans.

“I am trying to match our land to crops that work for it,” he said. “I was doing field corn and soybeans and not getting the yields. We tried to transition to crops that work because it’s sandy soil, hotter and dry.”

A part of the mix is taking part in ALUS. His father started this and Tom has continued. In the case of the Csoff farm, ALUS was used to fill in marginal land with prairie grasses. There are nine acres of various grasses throughout the farm. This plays another benefit in attracting bees.

“It’s becoming a key contributor to our pollination,” Tom said.

He is also searching for other crops and trying new things.

“We’re trying those next crops on small scales to see what will work and have the market,” he said.

Tom is carrying on the family tradition with involvement with the Delhi German Hall, and is currently president. He is also on the board of directors for the Asparagus Farmers of Ontario and a volunteer firefighter. 

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