Gaylen’s Homegrown Popcorn entered the popping business over 20 years ago, taking the South Dakota popcorn market by storm. Originally from Chester, owner Gaylen Backus and his wife, Shirley, took their farming experience to the next level in hopes of creating one of South Dakota’s most successful popcorn businesses in Wentworth, SD.
“I had been looking at some ads in a farm magazine about raising popcorn for a company in Wisconsin. I did that for a couple of years and then thought why not raise it for ourselves? So, in 1997, we started growing and selling our popcorn as Gaylen’s Homegrown Popcorn,” said Backus.
Having both been raised on farms, the couple had previous experience with livestock and crops, though neither of them had ever grown popcorn. Backus knew it would be a learning process when it came to planting and harvesting.
“The plant itself has a weaker stalk than field corn and many times after the crop has started to dry down and get close to harvest a wind will come through and break off the stalks, making it very hard to pick up with the combine head,” he explained.
Find Gaylen's Popcorn at...
- Al’s Oasis
- Mount Rushmore
- The Corn Palace
- Wall Drug
Once the farming process was nailed down, Backus began developing multiple ways to sell their popcorn. Instead of simply offering bags of popcorn, Gaylen’s produces various popcorn balls and popcorn cakes, which make great gifts during the holiday season. If small treats aren’t your thing, they also sell their popcorn in 16-ounce bags called “pounders.”
“We believe that our popcorn treats are a step above other popcorn companies because we do not skimp on our flavoring,” said Backus.
“I think Buttered Popcorn is my Favorite” – Backus
Speaking of flavor, Gaylen’s knows how to keep things interesting and unique. Cheddar Pretzel Ale, English Toffee, and Dill Pickle are just a few of the flavors that Gaylen’s proudly presents. Backus and his family take pride in making quality flavors that will keep customers coming back.
“Shirley and our youngest son, Tyler, run the popcorn treats end of the popcorn business. Between the two of them, they develop new flavors. We make a real caramel with real butter and real vanilla, even though artificial would be a lot cheaper,” said Backus.
Top Selling Flavors Include...
- Caramel Chocolate Drizzle
- Chocolate Caramel Crunch
- Ultimate Combo
Tyler is also in charge of the online presence of the business and knows first hand how much of an impact their business is making. Bulk, gift baskets, and individual orders have been sent to almost every state, as well as to Canada and Mexico. Knowing their popcorn has such a large perimeter is something Backus takes pride in.
“There are not many popcorn treat manufactures in the state, especially in our local area, which I believe helped our start. It has been fun trying to learn about a new business venture and to develop new markets,” he explained.
Being a family-owned business in a small rural town has its ups and downs, but Backus sees nothing but growth and success in the years to come. With the novelty popcorn business gaining popularity, Gaylen’s has outgrown the converted two-car garage and is on its way to having a larger production facility.
“It is fun to see a business grow working with family and great employees” – Gaylen
“We not only wanted to see if we could sell our popcorn treats, but we wanted to make sure those same people that bought the popcorn treats would come back,” said Backus.
For more information, visit gaylenspopcorn.com.
FLAVOR OF THE MONTH
Caramel Sunrise: Caramel popcorn with a hint of real orange, cranberries, and peanuts.