Obituary: Farmer, market owner Cal Chadwick delivered sweet corn and kindness

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2014 - 4:32 PM

Farmer Calvin “Cal” Chadwick lovingly tended not only his world-famous sweet corn and other crops but people, too, especially the young.

The longtime owner of Cal’s Market and Garden Centers in Bloomington and Savage got his start at age 9, selling strawberries and sweet corn from a card table in front of his family’s Bloomington home. In 1961, at age 18, he opened Cal’s Market on Old Shakopee Road near Penn Avenue.

Chadwick died of leukemia April 19 at his Prior Lake home, ending a 16-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 71.

His brother the Rev. Bill Chadwick said Cal was a pastor of sorts, in his own way: “He had just an incredible ministry of giving hundreds of kids their first job and teaching them how to work.”

Brian Miller and Al Ogdie, who collectively worked 42 years at Cal’s, couldn’t agree more.

“While Cal was growing crops in the field, he was also growing and cultivating many young people and passing on lifelong values,” Miller said. “Cal’s Market was a wonderful place for a kid to grow up and learn about working your way in the world. Cal taught us a lot.”

Cal Chadwick modeled how to treat people and take care of customers. He boosted confidence in Miller, then a shy kid, by putting him in charge of a corn stand.

“Families and friends are important” were other lessons the farmer taught, Miller said, along with living up to the motto, “Cal’s sweet corn is the best.”

How did they do that? “We checked every darn single ear before we put it in the sack and put it out on the display table,” Miller said.

Cal Chadwick grew up helping his dad, Ed, on their Bloomington vegetable farm, inheriting his gentle spirit and green thumb. The family of six lived on Old Shakopee Road at France Avenue, now a shopping center.

Bill Chadwick said as a little kid he got to peek into the life of a teenager, Cal, who was 10 years older, while sharing a bedroom. But Cal was no ordinary teen.

“He read a chapter out of the Bible every night,” Bill told mourners during the funeral Wednesday. “What a great role model. He was a hard worker in school and on the farm.”

Parents Ed and Roberta often recited the Bible passage, “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Bill Chadwick said. “And Cal knew he had been given gifts of intelligence and leadership, and he used them for good every day of his life.”

In 1961, Cal Chadwick graduated seventh in a class of 400 at Bloomington High School. He earned an accounting degree at Macalester College while running his mart, built with a loan from his dad.

As business grew, he supplied sweet corn for the State Fair and shipped overseas, daughter Carina Peterson said. He started a greenhouse in 1976, growing geraniums, the Red Tango his favorite. He grew pumpkins, strawberries and Christmas trees, too.

Ogdie said Chadwick, a kind man with a “forever smile,” was known to workers as their “Corn King.”

Ogdie was an awkward 14-year-old when Chadwick patiently taught him to fill strawberry six-packs to heaping. “‘We fill them full because we want to give people their money’s worth,’” Ogdie said Chadwick told him. “And that was Cal through and through — giving people what they wanted.”

Neighbor Bud Baechler called Chadwick a humble man who looked out for neighbors, doing favor after favor. Baechler said he imagines him in heaven in his gray overalls, hoe in hand, making places more beautiful.

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