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Captivating Corn Mazes

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - September 4, 2012

It’s the best way to get lost. With a little ingenuity and a lot of fun, you can get into and find your way out of the mazes that delight families, kids and groups every fall in the Lakes Region.

Two wonderful farm businesses offer totally unique and fun corn mazes each late summer/fall, and the time for corn maze fun is now upon us.

At Moulton’s Farm off Rt. 25 in Meredith, corn mazes are a big part of the fall fun at the farm. Says Moulton’s Farm manager Scott Stephens, “This is our 12th year doing the corn maze at our farm. At the time we did the first maze, there were none in the area. We did it to offer something during the fall for our customers. The farm corn maze is agri-tourism related.”

This year’s maze pattern at Moulton’s is in the shape of a tractor; when seen from the air, the image of a tractor is clearly visible, cut out of various rows of corn. From the ground, it’s just plain fun to enter and conqueror the maze. Visitors love to meander through the maze to eventually find their way out.

“We have a patrol person at the maze to check on visitors. But the maze is not so big or difficult that a person would be overly challenged to find their way out,” adds Stephens.

The maze opens for the season on September 8, and it will be busy as those who love the challenge visit Moulton’s Farm.

Just how is the maze created? According to Scott Stephens, it takes time to work out the pattern on graph paper. The maze is designed by Moulton Farm’s employee and college graduate West Thomas. “Wes has been designing the maze for us for about five years. He uses about 20 sheets of graph paper to work out the design. He replicates the way we plant the rows of corn horizontally and vertically as seen from above. It’s not easy to do the design and work it out on graph paper. We plant in two directions and when the corn is two to three inches tall, we go through and cut it for the maze pattern. This is done at the beginning of the season so the corn grows in the pattern we want.”

The corn for the maze is seed corn, which makes for taller and more rugged corn just right for the maze. The finished corn maze takes up about four acres on Moulton’s Farm property and Stephens estimates that about 2,000 guests do the maze each year.

“Over the course of the years, we have paved the way as one of the first businesses in the state to offer such forms of what is now commonly know as Agri-Tourism. The designs have grown more complex over the past few years, and in 2005 a new group of farm hands assumed the responsibility of designing and building today’s mazes. I designed the first maze when we started back in 2000,” explains Stephens.

According to Moulton’s Farm Stand website, a lot of time and effort is put into designing the maze for the enjoyment of everyone who visits the farm. Here are some answers to the many questions they get about the corn maze:

The corn maze is planted around mid-June every year (depending on the weather). It takes about six hours to plant. The field is planted in both directions to create a grid.

An outline of the field is drawn on graph paper (20 pieces taped together). Each line on the graph paper represents one row of corn. The maze is then designed by hand inside the field outline on the graph paper. This process alone takes one to two days.

When the corn is between eight to 12 inches tall, the paths are cut out using a trimmer and following the giant graph paper map very carefully (it’s a lot of counting). Cutting the paths takes two to three people about two days to complete.

After the paths are cut, a small tractor and rotary tiller are sent through the maze to make sure the paths have no corn in them. This takes a full day to complete.

The paths are then compacted and the rocks are removed in order to make the terrain as safe as possible for travelers. As the corn grows, leaves are stripped off the stalks that line the paths to make it easier to see and safer to travel. The corn in the maze can grow up to 15 feet tall.

None of the corn in the maze is harvested. It is used a feed corn (cow corn), which is edible but not very tasty.

For information and prices on the Moulton’s Farm corn maze, call 279-3915.

At Beans and Greens on Rt. 11B in Gilford, the yearly corn maze has become a very popular activity for visitors of all ages. Alex Howe, son of farm owners Andy and Martina Howe, has once again created a wonderful corn maze to challenge visitors.

This year’s maze has a theme everyone will be familiar with: the Olympics. As in the past, Alex has created a confusing maze to challenge the wits of those who enter the maze. To add to the fun there is an Olympic Treasure Hunt, with a real “treasure” to be found.

For those not into treasure hunts, there are Olympics trivia questions in the maze and special games/puzzles for youngsters. Answer the questions correctly to help find the way through the maze or to get entered into a drawing for a prize. All games are for daytime visitors only.

The nighttime corn maze is dark (especially before there has been a frost and the foliage is also a dark green color, adding to the fun) and most always “spooked” although visitors will find the “spookiness” increases in October, as Halloween gets closer.

The maze is not designed for aerial imagery, but rather to get participants good and lost! Visitors should plan on spending at least an hour roaming the maze or get assistance from the Beans and Greens Cops to get out of the maze. Call Beans and Greens for corn maze hours and ticket prices at 293-2853. 

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