Monday, October 26, 2009

Maize mazes become fall tradition, boost incomes

When the Jester family of Farmland, Ind., decided eight years ago they needed to supplement their income they and hundreds of other U.S. farmers looked overseas for inspiration. Maureen "Mo" Jester and her family sat down at the kitchen table and began sketching blueprints for an agrarian twist on popular British hedge mazes, P. J. Huffstutter of The Los Angeles Times reports. The maze now attracts urban visitors looking for some autumn joys.

"It was getting harder to make a living each year," Jester told Huffstutter. "If you have a small amount of ground, you either have to grow and get big or keep your small farm and have an off-farm source of income." Now each fall, tens of thousands of visitors come to Jester's 1 Fun Farm, right. Patty Randall, a Sunday school teacher from First Presbyterian Church in Bluffton, Ind., tells Huffstutter: "I don't know if it's the cold or the leaves turning or how the air smells of corn cobs burning on the bonfire, but October's not October without a trip to the farm."

The modern farm maze appeared in the early 1990s thanks to Adrian Fisher, a British developer. (Did he call it a maize maze?) Ever since, farmers have been competing to create the largest, scariest and most unique mazes. Kamille Combs, spokeswoman for The MAiZE, a leading corn-maze design firm based in Utah, told Huffsutter there are an estimated 500 mazes across the country. She says: "Families like to do things that create traditions around holidays, and it's tough to take little kids and the grandparents to a haunted house every October. But visiting a farm is something that feeds people's sense of nostalgia and appeals to all ages." (Read more)

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