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Our interview with Farm World Magazine


Ohio Correspondent

LAFAYETTE, I nd. Pop ... pop ... pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. These faint popping sounds fill the air in a corner of the Lafayette Farmer's Market. The sounds slowly gain momentum and grow louder as more kernels burst into sweet, white kettle corn. "This is the first day of our business," Nancy Strack said, proudly on June 19. 'This is our first day popping."

After seeing a commercial advertisement, Strack talked her partner, Barb Middleton, into selling kettle corn as a side business with her. They said their first trial run was a few weeks ago, where they tested their new equipment by making kettle corn for their friends. "We ate kettle corn for three hours; it was great," Strack said. The two entrepreneurs hope to raise enough money selling kettle corn to start their own farm.

"We bought 13 acres a year ago and want to start an organic farm, but we don't have any money," said Nancy, who works with computers at Purdue University. "We thought it was a great way to make some extra money to pay off my student loans," added Barb, who just completed her MBA in December.   Running out of kettle corn in the sifter to fill the bags, Nancy decided it was time to make a new batch. 

She scooped out some kernels and turned to her helper, 11-year-old Emma Falley. "Em, do you want to do the sugar?" asked Nancy, poised to dump the kernels into the kettle.

After measuring 11/2 cups of sugar, both she and Emma tossed the ingredients into a puddle of 100 percent corn oil in the bottom of the kettle. Then, Nancy quickly grabbed a long, wooden spoon.  "We have to stir it constantly or the sugar will burn," she said, furiously swirling the sugar, kernels and oil around. "It's a little slow going, but once it gets started, it goes fast. "After the kernels had popped, Nancy quickly dumped the kettle corn into a sifter, Barb salted the batch and Emma made sure each kernel was properly coated.

"Here, this is a warm sample," Barb said, handing an onlooker a cup. Barb said they sold about 15 bags of kettle corn in the two hours the stand had been open, with bags costing $1 to $5. She added that they had given away quite a few samples, though.  "I don't want that  sample," said another customer, waving away the small Dixie cup. "I've got to split some with my friend down there," he added, pulling out some cash to buy a large, $5 bag.Although they are beginners, Nancy and Barb are already envisioning where their business will lead them next. "I'm   already   thinking,"   Nancy   said, Cajun kettle corn."


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