There wasn't much to do after the hailstorm except get creative.

In 2009, when hail and subsequent snowfall devastated his corn crop, Wood River, Nebraska, farmer Mick Reynolds weighed his options. He could hang his head, accept the loss and hope for a better growing season the next year, or he could try something new.

He chose the latter. He brainstormed ideas with family members about what makes Nebraska Nebraska and came up with two things: corn and football. So he carved the image of a yellow ear with white laces into a wood plaque.

With that, Reynolds, now 59, launched CornCoctions. Still a full-time farmer, he and his wife operate the business, selling oddball corn-themed products at locations around the state and online through grownebraska.org.

"We took adversity and turned it into something positive," Reynolds said. "As the years went by we just kind of started adding a few other products."

Age: 59

Occupation: farmer; founder of CornCoctions

Hometown: Wood River, Nebraska

Family: wife, Debra; children Angela, Andrew and Alice

Hobbies: hunting, fishing, woodworking

There are coffee mugs and wall hangings and a "silent wind chime" made from hanging corncobs — small kitsch items to make people smile. And then, Reynolds said, there are the two big sellers.

The first, Reynolds markets as "The World's Most Challenging Puzzle." A gag of a stocking stuffer, he calls it.

It's a bare corncob packaged with the loose kernels. Adhesive not included.

"If anyone actually solved this thing, they have way too much time on their hands," Reynolds said.

But he has high hopes for his second big seller, his "A-MAIZE-ing Sweet Corn Leaf Tea." Made from dried sweet corn leaves, the beverage is technically an "herbal infusion." It tastes similar to green tea, Reynolds said, but because the leaves lack tannic acid, there's no bitterness.

"We tried it, and, by golly, it was pretty good," he said.

Reynolds said he recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a marketing plan for the product.

Though CornCoctions is still very much a side endeavor, Reynolds hopes to see it grow in the coming years. CornCoctions products so far are available at Grow Nebraska stores in Kearney and Grand Island, at the Whole Foods on O Street in Lincoln, at the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island and at the Kearney Archway.

It'll be a challenge, he said — he doesn't have much experience in retail — but a challenge is what spawned the idea in the first place.

"Being a farmer, that's just kind of the natural thing," he said.

Contact the writer: blake.ursch@owh.com 402-444-3131, twitter.com/blakeursch_owh

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