By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor
It has the juice!
Many in Chilton County know Jimmie Hardee as the Chairman of the Chilton County Commission. However, he is also known for serving up delicious corn with his family aboard the Cam’s Corn food truck.
Over 10 years ago, Hardee and a friend traveled around to small events and fairs in Alabama with a single corn roaster on a trailer that they pulled behind a truck. The pair decided to give the operation a try after seeing the roasted corn at a bunch of the festivals they traveled to.
“We saw the roasted corn at these festivals and we tried it,” Hardee said. “It was so good, and we thought it would be easy to do. It was just an investment mainly.”
The partners took a step away from the business, but Hardee said if he ever did it again he would change it up a bit.
“You have to have a way to keep all of that corn, because you sell a lot of it,” Hardee said. “We used to have to have two trucks full of stuff, and it was a lot of work. I decided when I designed this (next) trailer that it would be (easier).”
Around 2020 Hardee began looking to get back into the business and began getting a food truck together. He designed the truck like a BBQ food truck, but he had to wait his turn to purchase a corn roaster. In the meantime, Hardee’s brother introduced him to kettle corn.
“I got to researching and came to find out that it is sweet popcorn,” Hardee said.
Hardee’s turn to get a corn roaster came and the one he purchased was too heavy for the back of the trailer in the new truck. He modified the entire trailer and moved the roaster to the front. The roaster on Hardee’s truck can roast about 200 ears of corn in 36 minutes.
At the same time, Hardee purchased a kettle corn popper as well and naturally had a space on the back of the trailer to put it after moving the corn roaster to the front.
Thus, Cam’s Corn was born.
Hardee began selling the roasted corn on the cob along with the kettle corn in bags. He has recently added Mexican street corn in a cup with his own recipe and spin on it. The idea for the street corn came about from a customer.
Cam’s Corn is run and owned by Jimmie Hardee along with his wife, Tammy, and his daughter Marlee. Cam’s Corn is named after one of Jimmie Hardee’s grandkids. He names each of his businesses after his grandkids such as Tucks Construction LLC which is named after his grandson Tucker.
In January 2023, Jimmie encountered, and overcame, some health issues and considered selling the truck. However, Marlee stepped in after her father’s health issues and began helping in the truck even more than before. She now accompanies Jimmie and Tammy everywhere the family goes to sell their corn.
“She enjoys it and enjoys waiting on the customers,” Jimmie Hardee said. “They both enjoy it, but it is a very tiresome job. It takes a lot to do it, but it is very rewarding,”
Jimmie said Tammy and Marlee have their own system inside and he has his own system on the outside. Marlee helps Tammy with loading and unloading the corn roaster and preparing the Mexican street corn while serving customers. Jimmie mans the kettle corn cooking outside on the back of the truck.
Each batch of kettle corn that Jimmie cooks fills about five bags, and the hotter the kettle gets the more kernels it pops. Jimmie said you do not want to pop all of your kernels in the first batch, and it takes some time to get the process down.
“I have the process down perfectly,” he said.
Cam’s Corn is looking to venture into caramel kettle corn in the near future as well. Jimmie said people enjoy the sweet and salty mixture of the kettle corn he makes. Although people have asked, he said he has no plans on making plain popcorn. There are also no plans to expand the business anytime soon, but Jimmie said he would love to see it franchised.
“If I was about 20 years younger, buddy I would be hard to stop and I think my wife is glad I am not,” he said. “We are a local business and we are very fortunate for the people that support us.”
He added that if he ever did sell the business that the Cam’s Corn truck would be one of a kind after the modifications he made to accommodate the corn roaster.
“I look at it as an investment and a getaway, but I also look at it as serving the community,” Jimmie Hardee said. “I like to show people that you can do anything you set your mind to. This is another service, and we get paid to do this one, and being a part of the community (is important).”
Cam’s Corn does special orders as well for events or holidays. Jimmie recalled the largest order they did which was a school who ordered 1,000 sandwich bags of kettle corn. It took the entire Hardee family to get the order done.
“I like interacting with people, I like to see people smiling and I like to see people enjoying themselves,” Jimmie Hardee said. “If I can be a part of that, then so be it.”
Cam’s Corn food truck can be found at any local festivals or events in Chilton County.