4 Generations Lend Helping Hand to Harvest Fresh Ears Daily

As the old adage goes, “If you love something let it go. If it comes back to you, it was meant to be.” For Jacob Van Manen, sometimes you must leave the farm to realize just how much you miss it.

“I always enjoyed helping on the farm, but it wasn’t until I went off to college and received a couple of job offers to work in an office that I realized I couldn’t stand working inside all day,” Jacob says.

Jacob and his sister, Emily, were raised on their family’s farm in East Central Iowa. This dynamic duo has been selling Van Manen Sweet Corn for virtually their entire lives. They officially took over the business about seven years after their father, Kevin, said he was ready to retire from raising produce. As is the case with most farmers, Kevin never really retired.

Jacob and Emily in 1997

Today four generations of the Van Manen family — including Jacob’s wife, Kate, and Emily’s husband, Braden — have come together to help with the family operation, whether to pick produce, manage roadside stands or any number of other chores. Kevin’s mom, Trudy, shows up faithfully every morning to drive the gator for her grandkids (and great grandkids). Kevin and his wife, Julie, began growing sweet corn in the 1980s and have sold it at roadside stands for 30 years. As their family has grown, their roles have changed and the farm has evolved.

Grandma Trudy

Great Grandma Trudy with Isabella


Grandma Kitties and Kennedy

Great Grandma Trudy and Kennedy

Kevin and Jacob both farm full time. In addition to raising produce, they raise field corn and soybeans. They also raise Holstein feeder calves and pigs. Jacob’s wife, Kate, works right here at Latham Hi-Tech Seeds as our digital marketing strategist. She has added a produce season to the mix by selling pumpkins and mums at self-serve stands in the fall.

Everyone plays a role in this family business. Sweet corn is picked fresh every morning and then transported to town before the roadside stand opens. Van Manen Sweet Corn & Fresh Produce has expanded during the last five years to four, full-time stands. They also have added Muscatine watermelon and cantaloupe to their inventory.

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Family members’ roles have changed, too. Kevin and Julie used to pick produce daily. Now Grandma Julie is usually on “kid duty” with four little ones, ages five and under. Kevin feeds the cattle and hogs as others pick corn.

“I just love growing things,” says Jacob, who enjoyed exhibiting horticultural products through 4-H and FFA. He still enjoys entering his produce in the open class competition at the county and state fairs. “We’re just a hardworking family that loves what we do.”

Jacob looks forward to passing along his love of agriculture. He and Kate are the proud parents of Kennedy and Karter. Emily and her husband, Braden, live 20 minutes south of the family farm and have two children, Isabella and Anastasia.

Fam 1

“It’s really cool that my kids will have an opportunity to grow up on a farm like I did. Not many kids today get to do that. Not many people realize sometimes we work 80-plus hours a week to bring in a crop,” says Jacob, who is a fifth-generation Iowa farmer. “Not many people today know where their food comes from. We want consumers to understand the care we take to produce safe, healthy and nutritious foods for their table.”

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Jacob and Karter

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The kids even get photoshoots in the corn!


The Van Manen family opens their farm to tours. They also were a recipient of the Choose Iowa Award from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig.

Check out their stands available Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (or sold out) through July and August.

Be sure to follow them on Facebook for the latest updates: Van Manen Sweet Corn & Fresh Produce. 

Today Jacob is sharing with us one of his family’s favorite recipes for Sweet Corn Dip.

Sweet Corn Dip


  • 6 ears of corn (about 6 cups)
  • ½ cup mayo
  • 2 cups cheese
  • ½ red onion
  • 2 tsps. cilantro


Mix ingredients and serve with taco chips. For more color, add red pepper for more color. You can also add fresh chives instead of the cilantro.