The Tiny But Mighty Popcorn King

In popcorn parlance, “old maids” are kernels that fail to pop. Devoted fans of the Tiny But Mighty brand learn about that and other kernels of popped corn wisdom when Gene Mealhow promotes his product as “Farmer Gene” in Whole...

November 4, 2016 by FarmLife

The Tiny But Mighty Popcorn King

In popcorn parlance, “old maids” are kernels that fail to pop. Devoted fans of the Tiny But Mighty brand learn about that and other kernels of popped corn wisdom when Gene Mealhow promotes his product as “Farmer Gene” in Whole...

In popcorn parlance, “old maids” are kernels that fail to pop. Devoted fans of the Tiny But Mighty brand learn about that and other kernels of popped corn wisdom when Gene Mealhow promotes his product as “Farmer Gene” in Whole Foods stores and at events across the country.

Gene and Lynn Mealhow

Gene and Lynn Mealhow

While his family left farming in 1989 during the farm crisis, Mealhow got back into production agriculture in 1990. The fourth-generation farmer bought 33 acres of the family’s land—all that he could afford—near Shellsburg, Iowa.

“I wanted to farm,” he says, walking into the former farrowing house where Lynn, his wife, and Mark Kluber, his brother-in-law, are packaging corn. Gene’s sister-in-law, Lori Kluber, and niece, Ashley Arp, also work for the family popcorn business. The Mealhows’ four sons, with careers in other fields, love to come home and help out when they can, too.

“If I was going to be a successful farmer on my small acreage, I knew I had to do something different,” Mealhow continues, taking his leave of packing and walking to the cornfield in front of his home. At first, he says, he tried growing tofu beans and herbs. “I went cold turkey not using chemicals and failed miserably,” he admits, chuckling. He eventually settled on “biologically based” growing methods, focusing on soil nutrients and soil balancing.

In addition to the 33-acre homestead Mealhow cultivates, “We have four contract farmers,” he says, all within a 75-mile radius, which allows Mealhow to be on hand during planting and harvest. On his acreage, Mealhow uses a 300 Massey Ferguson® combine, as well as an Allis Chalmers 185 tractor, both of which Mealhow says are wonderfully reliable.

The crux of Tiny But Mighty’s sales comes from retail outlets, such as Whole Foods Market, Fareway and Hy-Vee stores. “Most big popcorn companies are selling 10 million pounds of popcorn a year,” he says. “Our goal is to hit between 2 million to 3 million pounds this year. So in the world of popcorn, we are teeny tiny.” He adds, “But we’re growing.”

Read more about the Mealhows’ family operation: The Tiny But Mighty Popcorn King

Leave a comment.

  • Good for you , We need more farmers like you and your family :)
  • Great job and very good example of respecting the land and sharing good practices
View More

Stay Connected. Follow AGCO