Farmer Friday: Corn Maze
With the arrival of autumn, our focus has shifted from swimming and sunshine to harvest festivals, fairs, apple pie (with cheddar!), the back-to-school sports schedule and getting outside to enjoy the cooler weather and foliage before the snow flies.
One of our favorite fall pastimes has become a visit to the local Corn Maze. Corn Mazes have sprung up all over the country with the popularity of the Agri-tourism movement. They provide an excellent opportunity to visit a local farm, get some fresh air and exercise, and challenge your problem solving skills. There are usually other activities to enjoy at the mazes like petting zoos, hayrides, farm stands, farm tours or even cheese samplings!
On a recent trip to the Great Vermont Corn Maze, my family did the ‘scenic maze’ – a 45 minute Corn Maze intended for younger visitors or those building up their corn maze enthusiasm. The scenic trail winds its way through parts of the larger maze and has clues to guide the way. You finish by hammering the ‘Bell of Success’ for everyone to hear! The full maze is large and complex – it takes adults an average of 2 hours to solve– so bring your sneakers, a snack and a positive attitude!
When my family visited with our two-year old, the corn maze was just the beginning of the adventure. We also visited ‘Hide & Seek Forrest’, barnyard golf, Kid’s village (complete with several kid-sized village businesses), goat petting zoo, indoor hay bale play area and incredible ‘gopher tunnels’ running under the barn for the kiddos. We could have spent several days exploring these extra activities without even going in the corn maze!
The mazes all vary in size and difficulty, but we always find a visit to the corn maze a great way to spend a fall afternoon.
We have five farms with Corn Mazes within the Cooperative:
Escobar’s Highland Farm Corn Maze: 255 Middle Rd, Portsmouth, RI
Fort Hill Farms Corn Maze Adventure: 260 Quaddick Rd, Thompson, CT
Great Vermont Corn Maze: 1404 Wheelock Rd, North Danville, VT
House of Hayes Corn Maze: 151 East St, North Granby, CT
Percy Farm Corn Maze: 2919 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT
This week we thank Lee Percy of Percy Farm, Mike & Dayna Boudreau of Patterson Farm and the Great Vermont Corn Maze and Kristin Orr of Fort Hill Farms for taking the time to share some of the history and details of their corn mazes!
Mike & Dayna Boudreau, Great Vermont Corn Maze, North Danville, VT
Hours: Open 7 days/week between August 1st and October 18th, weather permitting. Maze opens at 10am and the last visitors are admitted at 2pm, but it is recommended you arrive as early as possible.
We opened the Great Vermont Corn Maze 17 years ago. We use to invite our nephews from the city to come up and help on the farm during the summer. We always joked with them about getting lost in a maze in the corn. When we decided to move back to the farm we wanted to diversify, so we decided to create a unique attraction. We sat down with pen and paper and figured out how to design a corn maze.
Each year, we design and create an entirely new maze with new photo ops and surprises within the maze. This year we have 8′ dinosaur statues and a 28′ cabin cruiser that “sails upon the corn”. We also have more than 100′ of bridges and a 32′ underground tunnel.
We love the creative process of our planning the maze each year and making something that has never been done before. We also love meeting the wonderful people that come from all around the world. When we open in August it is like having an annual family reunion with people we only see once or twice each year, but have become part of our extended family. We had our first 3rd generation mazer this year. We also have several couples who first visited on their honeymoon – and we have enjoyed being able to watch their families grow.
We also host DEAD NORTH Farmland of Terror, which will happen on October 2, 3, 9 & 10 2015. Our annual haunted event is on the farm, but not through the Great Vermont Corn Maze. DEAD NORTH has sold out for the past 15 years and includes an almost mile walk through a dark cornfield, building complete with animatronics, mostly live actors and professional entertainment. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance at www.deadnorthvermont.com
It has been quite a ride – last year we were selected one of the Top 10 mazes in America and in 2013 the Travel Channel came to film a show at the maze!
Lee Percy of Percy Farm & Corn Maze. Stowe, VT
Hours: Open 7 days/week. 10am-5pm.
In 2002, Paul decided he would cut a corn maze on his 50 acre cornfield at Bouchard farm, which is along the Stowe bike path. He thought visitors using the bike path would enjoy walking through a cornfield. Paul cuts a different maze every year in early July when the corn is about 2′ to 3′ high over 8 acres of the cornfield. He doesn’t design anything on paper – he just gets on his tractor and decides how to cut the maze as he goes along.
We had 5,500 visitors last year from all around the world. This year we have already had visitors from Spain, Scotland, Israel, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Italy and Austria. Our Vermont visitors and Canadian neighbors are also very eager to try the maze along with visitors from all over the United States.
We also have two calves and two goats who love to be fed and petted by everyone! We have educational information posted on how the cows are milked and the various stages the milk gets processed before it is picked up and delivered to our Creamery and used to make Cabot cheese.
Paul feels that the corn maze allows people to engage in agriculture. They have the opportunity to learn about how the corn is planted, grows and harvested as feed for all the cows on the farms.
Most of the people who visit Stowe and the corn maze are in awe of the beauty of Vermont. They love to sit and enjoy the scenery and feed the calves and goats. They comment on all the different trees, green pastures with heifers, cows and bulls strolling and grazing, cornfields and the mountains.
The excitement and joy our visitors express as they exit the maze as they shout “I survived!”, “we made it” and “awesome” is really fun to experience. This year’s maze takes approximately 40 minutes on average to get through.
My favorite part of working at the corn maze is meeting all the wonderful families and groups who come back every year to challenge the corn maze and the many new visitors who go through for the first time. They are enthusiastic and ask many questions about dairy farming and life in Vermont. Having the opportunity to chat with them and hear about the cities and countries where they live is a wonderful experience.
Kristin Orr of Fort Hill Farms. Thompson, CT
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 9am – 8pm and Friday – Saturday, 9am – 9pm. We have flashlight nights Friday and Saturday – bring your own flashlight! Last tickets are sold 1 hour before closing.
We have operated the maze for 13 years. It began as an effort to share our farm with our farmstand customers and help them learn about our farm and agriculture in general.
We wanted it to be organized so people would not cheat to get out…and we didn’t want to make it so hard that grown men cry! We have always had a Mini Maze for those who have kids under 6, and for those who just want a shorter walk – especially on a hot day!
We always have a tethered hot air balloon so you can get above the maze to see it. ReMax donates the balloon and we charge $10.00 per person, which is donated to The Last Green Valley–because when they get up there, that is what they see–The Last Green Valley!