Sometimes the best plans arise when you hang out with friends. That’s precisely what happened to lifelong pals Zach Schumacher and Isaac Fest. “Isaac always has ideas,” Schumacher said. It was during a trip to Okoboji a few years ago that Fest first came up with the popcorn growing business.
Schumacher and Fest have been friends since they attended daycare together in Heron Lake, Minnesota. Both were raised on farms. They wanted to start a business that used their experience in growing crops.
“I grew up on a strawberry farm and nursery. We have row crops,” Schumacher said. He graduated from high school in 2014 and went to the University of Minnesota. He lives in Heron Lake with his wife, Logan and son, Beau and is still part of the family business, Schumacher’s Nursery & Berry Farm.
Fest had an interest in agriculture that began on the family farm. After graduating from Heron Lake-Okabena High School in 2015, he went to South Dakota State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in agronomy. He returned to the area, now resides in Worthington, Minnesota, with his wife, Kailey, and owns a seed business, farms with his father, and works part-time in his beau’s drainage business. -dad.
Both guys have farming experience. They thought field corn and popcorn were similar in how they were grown, but they were wrong. “It was a challenge to figure out how to do it.” They learned that popcorn should be planted earlier and harvested later than field corn. They used a drill to plant. “Not ideal,” Schumacher said. The guys use family equipment for planting and harvesting, so they have to do both when the equipment is available.
“A lot of manual labor goes into growing popcorn. We also pack everything ourselves,” Schumacher said.
“Popcorn is really picky with humidity,” Fest said. He found a good variety perfect for the southern Minnesota growing climate. The company supplying the seeds is out of Indiana.
This is their second year growing popcorn. They planted two acres of popcorn this spring. “We put everything on the heavier ground this year. We thought it looked really good today,” Fest said. They grow butterfly-style popcorn that offers a light and crispy texture.
“We try to sell it to schools for concessions,” Schumacher said. School districts Heron Lake-Okabena, Fulda, Worthington, and Minnesota West Community and Technical College all purchase Two Dudes Popcorn for their concession stands.
The popcorn currently comes in 50-pound and two-pound bags, as well as an eight-ounce package packed with two ounces of coconut oil for popping.
The popcorn is sold at Fest’s wife’s shop, Kailey, Hers & Mine Boutique in Worthington and on their website. It is also sold in a few other stores in the area.
“I think we will continue and grow every year,” Schumacher said. The demand is there, with other schools and organizations interested in buying popcorn from Two Dudes. They are thrilled to launch a new product for children: still on the cob popcorn. You put the cob in the microwave and the popcorn is ready to eat in just minutes.
The success they have found so far has been humbling. “Community support and the power of social media,” Fest said. “Not too many people don’t like popcorn.”
Best part of being in the popcorn business? “Hanging out with friends,” Schumacher said. “Just the chatter that’s been created around us. It’s cool when everyone’s eating your popcorn,” Fest said.
Because Fest and Schumacher have day jobs, adjusting in time to be popcorn growers, packers, and marketers becomes tricky. This means that they work in the popcorn business on evenings and weekends.
The popcorn harvest is scheduled for the end of October this year. The guys are eager to see what the returns will be. “We should have a good harvest,” Fest said. The average popcorn is about half the yield of field corn. If they could produce an average of 67 pounds of popcorn per bushel, that would be 6,700 pounds per acre, which would be ideal.
Once harvested, it is cleaned. Fest and Schumacher recheck the beans for any remaining debris before they are bagged. Although it can be a long and tedious process, perfection takes time. It’s no different when you’re producing popcorn.
The name Two Dudes Popcorn was Fest’s wife, Kailey’s idea; it’s simple and straightforward. Schumacher and Fest immediately loved the name. From friends to business partners, things are popping for Fest and Schumacher. Not to sound too cheesy, but Two Dudes Popcorn is doing just fine.