WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Bursting With School Colors

Macomb, IL – The third year is the charm for growing purple and gold popcorn at Allison Organic Farm. The farm is operated by Western Illinois University, which has school colors of - you guessed it - purple and gold.

The farm managed to produce just a small amount of purple popcorn the past couple years to go along with plenty of gold. But Joel Gruver of WIU's School of Agriculture says they found the right variety to use this year.

"After looking at about ten different varieties, we finally found a good purple variety," says Gruver. "The name is Shaman's Blue, which doesn't suggest that it would be purple. But it has a beautiful purple color and it was very productive."

Much of the corn you see in fields around the region is dent (commodity) corn. Gruver explains the difference between it and popcorn in the audio link included with this story.

Gruver says credit for the successful crop should go to research technician Andy Clayton, who planted the popcorn. Clayton manages Allison Organic Farm and Gruver says he's the one who "makes things happen" there.

The purple and gold popcorn from Allison Farm will be sold in half-pound bags, in microwave bags, and on the cob. Some of the cobs are a mix of purple and gold, while other ears are either entirely purple or entirely gold.

Gruver says this year's crop produced several thousand pounds of popcorn. He says it's being harvested by hand.

Gruver says he's discovered during the past three years that popcorn is "wimpy" compared to dent corn. But he adds popcorn will grow quite well if it's given the right conditions.