TYRONZA, Ark. — A small town in Arkansas is doing what it can to feed the community in a unique way.
Corn rows stretch for three acres next to a city park in Tyronza, and people in the town of fewer than 800 people are free to come and pick as they please, without spending a buck.
“When we first did it, it’s like a lot of things, people say, ‘Oh it will never work,'” Tyronza Mayor Charles Glover said. “And we thought, well if it doesn’t work we won’t do it again. It doesn’t cost us anything.”
For the last three years, it’s been working.
“Everybody is excited when they see us planting corn. Word gets around corn is being planted,” Glover said.
It’s a simple concept, with a big impact.
“We don’t have a grocery store in town, and I guess you could almost define us as a food desert, but it sure is nice to have some fresh vegetables,” Glover said.
Everything is done on a volunteer basis. After the initial planting, the corn doesn’t require much maintenance.
“Justin Howard has donated the seed for three years, our farmer Rollen Smith plants the corn and sprays it and then George Willoughby, another local farmer fertilizes it for us,” Glover said.
For Barbara Ross’ grandchildren, picking corn is a learning experience.
“They like to go pick it themselves and they learn from their grandmother how to shuck the corn,” the Tyronza city council member said.
It’s not just people in Tyronza who enjoy picking the corn. Other small communities nearby enjoy picking an ear, too.
The food bank in Marked Tree, which is five miles away, picks corn to give out to the food bank.
The only rule at the community corn patch is that you can’t come get a truck load to try and re-sell it. But people are encouraged to pick enough to freeze for later, or take some to the elderly.
In the fall, after the summer corn months, they harvest turnip greens.
Glover believes the community model would work well in other small towns and neighborhoods in Memphis, too.
“I’d encourage people to try it, see if it works, get input from the community and go do it,” he said.