Where did “popcorn” come from?
Popcorn has existed for longer than most people realize. The word "corn" was originally applied to the most-used grain of a specific place. Centuries ago, maize was the most common grain in America so it took the name "corn." It keeps that name today.
It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was for popping. This "pop" corn played vital roles in Aztec ceremonies, both as food and decoration. Around the mid 1800's many American settlers began planting maize, and the type of maize that popped was naturally given the name "popcorn.”
The popcorn industry grew throughout the 20th century and now Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn each year! You can find popcorn at almost any place associated with fun, food, and fitness- movie theaters, sporting events, entertainment arenas, amusement parks, and other recreational centers. It is definitely one of our country's favorite snack foods and is a healthy choice too! Compared to most snack foods, popcorn is low in calories. Air popped popcorn has only 31 calories per cup!
A hobby turned into a business
Gary and Marian Schlaegel started raising popcorn on their farm near Whiting, Kansas over 30 years ago. Originally it was deemed more of a hobby. Gary’s parents grew popcorn on their family farm for their own consumption and he carried on the tradition with his own family. Little did he know what his hobby would grow into. You see, Gary is also an accountant and he prepares individual tax returns and has been doing so since the 1970s. At that time, he would give some of his excess popcorn crop to his clients in gallon jugs as a token of thanks for their business. Not surprisingly, the popularity and demand for his corn grew, and he started to plant more and more each year. Throughout the next 20 years or so, his hobby took more and more time and effort. He started selling the popcorn to local grocery stores. He attended farmer’s markets. He went to fall festivals. This “hobby” had grown into a business.
There are two things certain in life: Popcorn and Taxes
Schlaegel’s Homegrown Popcorn has not always included popped and flavored popcorn. In 1995, Gary and Marian began making caramel popcorn in the basement of their house using Gary’s mother’s family recipe. In 1997, they constructed a separate building adjacent to their house to be occupied by both the popcorn business and the accounting business. Both businesses are still there today. The building has 3 tax preparers on one side and has a staff of 6 individuals to operate the popcorn business on the other side. To this day, each tax client still gets a thank you gift of popcorn after getting their tax returns prepared.
Gary and Marian now dedicate approximately 20-25 acres of crop ground to growing popcorn each year. They grow and package two unpopped varieties- yellow and white. The popcorn goes through several cleaning processes before it is either packaged for sale or popped and flavored. Since starting with the original caramel recipe they have added and subtracted many flavors over the last 20 years. Today, they sell 22 different flavors of popped popcorn.
In 2006, Gary and Marian added Mike Tanking as a partner to their business. He is a 2006 graduate of Ottawa University with a degree in Business Administration. After spending much of his college and high school summers and weekends helping Gary on the popcorn farm, he now prepares individual tax returns along with Gary on the accounting side of the building, and helps oversee production, distribution, and customer service on the popcorn side.
The business is continuing to look for ways to grow and serve its growing customer base. They truly enjoy working directly with their customers. It is their vision and goal to continue to offer a great product for decades to come.