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The Corn Lady of Marblehead

Mark Chandler • Aug 12, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Getting healthy is becoming a major impact in everyone’s everyday life. 

Farm Markets are becoming more popular as they are adding to diets the fresh, home grown fruits and vegetables. “The Corn Lady” farm market is no exception. 

Joan Kott Harris’s grandparents started the stand where it is yet today.  Louis and Elsie Riedmaier started the stand in the late 1930’s to early 1940’s. “They started with a table or bench and sold the extra produce they had”, Harris said.  “My mother helped my grandmother and my grandfather was usually busy on the farm”.  They grew all their own vegetables and had several fruit trees.  Joan still lives in the house that was owned by her great great grandparents that was built in 1865, that was also home to her grandparents and her mother.  When her grandmother “retired” from selling at the stand, Harris’s mother, Evadna Reidmaier Kott, continued with the stand with Joan helping when she could. “Mother would hire school kids to help at the stand until my kids got older.” They still continued to grow all their own produce.  Evadna also eventually “retired” due to aging and Joan continued with the selling of more and more of the produce. 

They eventually were planting more vegetables to sell.  Joan not only continued with the stand, raising her children, but also held down a full time job at Gateway for 20 years.  She said, “I told them that I could work there, but had to have July, August, and September off to work at the stand”.

 When Harris was asked where the name “The Corn Lady” came from she responded, “We used to have a pear tree right over there and I called the stand “Joan’s Pear Tree Stand” until the tree fell down (she laughed). Customers were coming up for the season and since we sold a lot of corn, they were calling me the corn lady.  I didn’t mind, I thought it was a riot when the little kids would ask if they could go see the corn lady. So, I figured I may as well keep it as “The Corn Lady”. I didn’t realize I was that famous”.  She states, “One customer even defended me because another customer came in and was stripping the corn down. She told them you don’t need to strip it down, it is the best corn around.  If you don’t believe it you can just go down the road and get it elsewhere.”  A customer from North Carolina states, “The Corn Lady is fabulous! This roadside stand near the intersection of East Harbor Road and Northshore is the best place to purchase sweet corn on the north shore.  She sells fresh-picked corn at reasonable prices and will even help you select the best from the bunch, if you are a corn selecting novice.  We’ve been purchasing corn from her for years and will continue to do so.”

Joan has since retired after over 40 years of running the stand. “I miss the wonderful customers, I don’t know any of their names, but remember their faces.  It has been a great experience.  I just want to make sure it stays in the family name”.  The stand has continued in the family with Joan’s son and daughter in law, Scott and Lisa Harris.  They took over the stand about 5 years ago. Scott has upgraded the stand over the years but still keeps it the look of a stand and concentrating more on customers satisfaction of the produce they are used to.  Harris says, “we took over the stand about 5 years ago helping here and there, but this is physically our first year due to mom’s health, that we are doing it ourselves”.  He says, “the stand has been in the family forever and used to be the only farm that raised their own fruits and vegetables.  The only time we would get produce from elsewhere is if it was something that we tried to grow, then we would buy it from other local farmers from either Castalia or Clyde.” “We are starting to get the orchards and vegetables back to the way it used to be, self-sufficient.” 

Harris not only has his own construction business, Highlander Harris Construction, takes care of Kott’s Camp which is also part of the family, but also the 12 acres, 900 fruit trees, and grape vines. He starts all the vegetables by seed in the greenhouse that he built next to his house, he then transplants them.  He plants some vegetables such as corn and cucumbers, to name a few, at different times so they have the vegetables continually throughout the season. “We always plant more than we need because Mother Nature never co-operates,” he says. Harris’s wife Lisa also works 2 jobs. She is able to take her job with her to the stand and can do it between customers being all her work is done online. Their three children, Dylan, Autumn, and Dalton have also helped not only with the stand but with anything else that needs to be done. Their youngest son Dalton, has the most interest in the stand and has asked if he can stay there and take care of the customers. It is a great help to both his parents so they can get other things done without losing customers by not having anyone at the stand. Harris says “we are open 7 days a week and we sell fruit, all kinds of vegetables, and fresh farm eggs.  We also accept Senior Farm Market Nutrition Program coupons.” Harris also says “we are a dying breed, we want to keep “The Corn Lady” going in the family. Dalton, if he wants to continue, will be the 5th generation to the stand.”

The “Corn Lady” can be found at 7931 E. Harbor Road in Marblehead and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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