This week’s La Porte County Life in the Spotlight, Riley Charlesworth, was already a farmer, a businessman, and a philanthropist before he even finished college. His sweet corn stand, “How Sweet It Is,” enables him to donate extra produce to local food pantries.
Riley’s six-acre farm was passed on to him by a family friend. He already had farming in his blood: Riley had learned a lot by helping on his uncle’s farm.
“I like working outside,” he said. “I like being able to see hard work turn into something productive. You can feed people.”
The planting at Riley’s farm is staggered so that the corn does not all come up at once. It is a technique he came up with while developing his business model. It allows him to donate more ears.
It also allows him to keep his shop stocked for more of the summer. Instead of selling all of his crop at once, he can harvest a few times a summer. His corn is always fresh.
Riley’s mother came up with the name “How Sweet It Is,” aptly named for the taste of the fresh kernels. His family is close. They work together on a couple other business ventures and support Riley with his farm.
The gas station where Riley parks his corn-selling pickup is a BP J-Mart owned and run by his parents. When he is not working on his own company, Riley helps his father load trucks. He is working on getting a CDL so he can haul fuel, too.
“A very good thing about a business being family-owned is whoever we are doing business with we have a personal relationship with,” he explained. “We know them, their business, and their needs. That’s a big thing, being able to relate to people.”
It was Riley’s sister who found a place to donate the corn. Riley knew he wanted to do good with the excess produce and was not sure how. Justene Charlesworth and her peers at the LaCrosse High School Leos Club put the corn into bags and brought it to the Hanna Food Pantry in South La Porte County.
“I thought it was a really big help,” Riley said. “It would’ve been a lot to do on my own. It made the process smoother and we could pick more, which means we could donate more.”
Donating the corn was an important thing to him.
“The food pantry gets the community together for a common cause: to help people in need. If people are struggling, they have somewhere to go.”
Riley has donated his corn before, but not to a food pantry. The South Central Leos Club asked him if he would be willing to supply them with produce they could sell at Hanna Fest.
“They asked, and I thought it was the right thing to do. They had the motivation to ask me, so I thought I could give them something,” he explained.
The Leos Club uses the corn as a fundraising product.
Riley uses it as a career he would like to expand. He would like to take his produce to a national level, and sell in grocery stores. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture at Purdue University to help accomplish that goal.
For now, Riley will continue selling locally and doing right by his community.