Children stock up with corn at a farmers' market in AB.
Credits: BRENDAN MILLER/CALGARY SUN
EDMONTON -- The city may seem like it's teeming with roadside Taber, Alta., corn merchants but Edmontonians should be wary of their purchase, say producers and distributors.
Counterfeit corn has been a problem in the City of Champions for several years and it's hurting legitimate Taber corn sellers, said David Jensen, a Taber corn producer and president of the Alberta Corn Growers Association.
"We call it counterfeit Taber corn. They just get corn from somewhere else and call it Taber corn and that's how it works," he explained. "And Edmonton is one of the worst places for it."
Taber, a town 250 kilometres southeast of Calgary, claims to have the best corn in Canada because the region gets more sunshine which, in turn, yields a more succulent corn crop.
Jensen is the first Taber corn producer to harvest his crop this season because he covers his seeds in biodegradable plastic to allow for faster germination, giving him a two-week lead on other corn producers in the area.
He's the only Taber corn producer currently shipping ears into Edmonton, Jensen said, and every other supposed Taber corn merchant is most likely making profit by duping the public.
"Just like if I sold ketchup that I said was Heinz but it wasn't -- it's the same principle. Using someone else's name to mark your product," Jensen said. "Any sales made that aren't Taber corn takes away from the Taber corn farmers."
Arnold Walker is one of five Taber corn merchants working in the Edmonton area and he's received only seven pallets of Taber corn from Jensen so far this season. Each pallet has over 1,600 ears of Taber corn.
Selling Taber corn for the past 13 years, the senior citizen says it's upsetting when he sees another merchant he believes is scamming people.
"It's been an ongoing problem since I've been in it," said Walker, greeting customers at his stand on Wye Road, just east of Highway 21.
"Jensen is the only one supplying Taber corn at the present time and I don't know if the rest is fake corn or not but they certainly aren't selling under the regulations they should be."
At $10 a dozen or $50 a bag, Walker believes it's the other stands that are making the big bucks. He's already heard horror stories from customers who bought Taber corn at an illegitimate stand and were unhappy with the quality.
To try and combat the corn con, all legitimate Taber corn merchants are issued certificates of authenticity, Jensen said.
"We supply all our people with certificates that show which farm it's from and a contact number. If the buyer has any issues and the merchant can't produce the certificate, I'd be wary about where it was from," he said.
A Taber corn stand operating on 50 Street near Whitemud Drive had a certificate for "Southern Alberta's Best Corn" that was licensed to Dee Shimko.
The worker operating the stand could not say who signed the certificate and did not know who Dee Shimko was.
Suspicious customers can call Alberta's consumer protection branch at 780-427-4088 in Edmonton to complain, says Service Alberta, and unscrupulous corn vendors can be charged under the Fair Trading Act that sees fines of up to $100,000 and/or two years in jail.