Sheila Corn is known as the “Egg Lady” around the Reno County Farmers Market, but she also uses her agronomy experience to experiment with hay crops and grass types.

Even though she shares a name with a traditional row crop, Corn has diversified her produce, and her place, in Reno County agriculture. Corn currently serves as the secretary of the Reno County Farmers Market, where she sells eggs, as well as a variety of vegetables, jellies and more. In addition to those products, she works with unique hay crops and grasses to produce grass-fed beef and lamb.

Growing up on a farm in north-central Kansas, she was got her start helping her family raise dairy and beef cattle, along with standard row crops, before attending Kansas State University to seek a degree in agronomy.

“The beef and lamb are an extension of what my dad would do when I was in high school,” Corn said. “But instead of feeding out the livestock for a month to fatten them up, I keep them on grass.”

The process takes longer, and grass can be scarce in cooler seasons, but Corn has used her training and interest in conservation to improve the feeding of her livestock. Using perennial grasses, Corn has set up permacultures on her farm for a mix of cool and warm season grasses.

“Usually you can only get one crop of hay off an acreage,” she said. “But I can get two off a perennial acreage — one cool season and one warm season.”

The system allows Corn to more easily graze or feed hay all year round, eliminating the need for grains like corn in finishing out cattle and lambs.

She uses grasses like Brome for the cool season and native Bermuda during the warm season.

“That’s my agronomist training and range management training coming together,” she said.

Farming small grew out of Corn’s love for agronomy and conservation. She said she got an early start in the field and was one of the first females in K-State’s natural resources management program.

She said growing your own food or food for local sale is different for everyone.

“You have to look at the land you have and figure out what works on it,” Corn said. “And have a little money to spend on experiments. I’d say 80 percent of my experiments don’t work out, but you have to try to see what works.”

Meet at the market

As secretary of the Reno County Farmers Market, Corn wrote the application for the Kansas Department of Agriculture Meet Me at the Market Grant. The grant aims to make local farmers markets a meeting place for the community, as well as the community’s first choice for buying produce.

Corn wasn’t a part of the steering committee that organized the market, but she’s been working with it since the first year of operation. Before that, she and her husband sold sweet corn as their first cash crop out of their house.

“For me, it’s my main retail outlet,” she said. “When we started, it was held under the parking garage at First National Bank. Since the move to its own building, it has helped make it more legitimate to the customers.”

Further improvements are planned using the Meet Me at the Market Grant. Corn’s said grant money is being used for more publicity, and the market is working with the Dillon Nature Center to be a part of its Foodie Fest. Additional children’s activities are planned as well, aimed at teaching the next generation of growers and consumers — an effort to propel the farmers market for years to come.