Maze Craze: Fall fun on Oregon farms

It’s that time of year again, when people begin to visit pumpkin patches to pick gourds for the season’s festivities. But what makes pumpkin patch farms stand out from the grocery stores that sell pumpkins? The farming community has come up with several creative ways to draw in customers during the fall season, using attractions such as petting zoos, hayrides, food and musical entertainment. However, another attraction growing in popularity is corn mazes.
Many farms use corn mazes to appeal to customers. Farmers are beginning to step it up and take corn mazes to a new level. Rare are maze mades of random patterns and lines. Nowadays, farmers are incorporating intricate designs planned out months in advance. Some rely solely on in-home planning, whereas others are bringing in professionals.
Since Linfield is situated right in the middle of farming country, many of these farms are located down the road. So if you are looking to have some fall fun, here is a compilation of a few farms and their corn mazes to keep in mind this season.
Farmer John’s Produce & Nursery
Farmer John’s Produce & Nursery acknowledges the fall season with its “Fall Harvest Celebration,” which features a corn maze in the shape of Oregon, employee Angelica Sully said.
The farm manager’s nephew, Jordan Bernards, drew up this year’s design. Last year, the maze was in the shape of a windmill with the words “Farmer John’s” written out, she said.
“As far as I know, no one has made it out the exit yet. Everyone keeps coming back out through the entrance,” Sully said.
The corn maze costs $4.
Farmer John’s Produce is located at 15000 SW Oldsville Road in McMinnville, Ore.
For more information about the corn maze, other attractions that the farm offers and hours of operation, visit its website at www.farmerjohnsproduce.com.
Willamette Valley Fruit Company
Willamette Valley Fruit Company features a 13-acre corn maze (right) in the design of the company’s logo, along with the words “Finding Hope” across the top. The design was inspired by this year’s theme: “Finding Hope in 2010.”
WVFC partnered with The Maize Company, the world’s largest corn maze consulting and design company, to design its maze, owner Jeff Roth said.
“We already had ideas for the design of the maze and the company took those ideas and put them on paper,” Roth said.
“Hope” came to his mind because of the hard economic times people have been going through during the last few years, and he wanted a way to incorporate that into the farm, he said.
The inspiration for the idea and slogan stemmed from a Hope Station conference Roth attended. Hope Station is a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate hunger. A portion of the farm’s proceeds will benefit Hope Station and the Marion-Polk County food-share program.
Roth, who is overseeing the corn maze project, is one of six owners of WVFC.
“We want to make a difference in people’s lives,” Roth said. “We have been trying to get more people to come out and spend time together as a family and enjoy the nature around them.”
Roth said he believes that WVFC’s corn maze is the largest maze in Oregon.
This is the second year that the farm has created a maze, so it is still building up its popularity, he said.
So far, approximately 2,000 people have visited this season, Roth said.
Last year, Roth went out with his mower and made circular and straight line designs to create a 3-acre corn maze.
“It was meant to be small for family and friends,” Roth said. “We later opened it to the public.”
Tuesday through Thursday, the maze costs $7 for adults and $5 for children. Friday and Saturday it costs $8 for adults and cost $6 for children.
WVFC is located at 2994 82nd Ave. in Salem, Ore.
For more information about the corn maze and its attractions, visit WVFC website at www.wvfco.com. E.Z. Orchards Farm Market
This farm takes an educational approach to its nearly 2.5-acre corn maze, which features Oregon state and its roads and highways. There are 50 signs within the maze mapping out the different pathways (roads and highways) along with significant geographical locations in Oregon.
“We have done the state before because it works out well for educational school tours,” owner John Zielinski said.
Zielinski designed the maze and used a surveyor to help lay it out to ensure its accuracy.
He said the idea came from a conference he attended during which he met a Washington farmer that used done the same concept using Washington State.
Last year, the farm’s maze featured a covered wagon pulled by oxen. The design represented the Oregon Trail to keep its educational aspect.
Zielinski is anticipating approximately 15,000 visitors this year.
On weekdays, the maze costs $3, and during the weekend it is included as part of a $7 general admission to the farm.
E.Z. Orchards is located at 5504 Hazel Green Rd. in Salem, Ore.
For more information about the corn maze, additional attractions that the farm offers and hours of operation, visit its website at www.ezorchards.com.
Bauman’s Farm and Garden
This farm has a 5-acre corn maze in the shape of an old-fashioned saloon. The design was inspired by this year’s western theme. Each year, a new theme is chosen, and the corn maze is designed to fit with that theme.
Sarah Bauman came up with the saloon design this year, brother Brian Bauman, class of ’02, said.
“We always look for something new every year,” he said. “Last year, it was a castle, and three years ago it was pirates.”
Because of the complex design, the farm began preparing for the maze during the spring, and it took approximately six months to complete, Bauman said.
However, the hard work has paid off since Bauman’s Farm had approximately 16,000 people come out to the farm Oct. 16 and 17, he said. Bauman anticipates that the farm will have approximately 30,000 to 50,000 people visit this fall season.
The farm offers three packages: a $4, $8 and $12 package. The $8 and $12 packages include the corn maze.
Bauman’s Farm and Garden is located at 12989 Howell Prairie Rd. in Gervais, Ore.
For more information about the corn maze and other attractions at the farm offers, visit its website at www.baumanfarms.com.
Airlie Hills Farm
This farm took a different approach this year by designing an abstract, 4-acre maze with random patterns to increase its difficulty. The change occurred in part because of time constraints, so a decision was made to focus on the expansion of the pumpkin patch’s other areas instead, owner Aaron Kennel said.
However, in past years, the design has been a giant sunflower with a honeybee and small designs around it, he said.
So far, approximately 2,000 people have visited the farm and its new corn maze.
The maze is part of an all-inclusive $4 charge on weekdays and $5 on weekends.
Airlie Farms is located at 10775 Airlie Rd. in Monmouth, Ore.
For more information about the abstract corn maze, visit its website at www.airliehills.com.
Heiser Farms
This farm features a 4-acre corn maze with a design that promotes the farm’s newest attraction: a railroad track with small trains. The design reads “Grande Island Railroad” and has a pumpkin and train incorporated into the words, owner Kristi Heiser said.
“We purchased a railroad track for small train enthusiasts to operate at our pumpkin patch,” Heiser said.
She invented the design, and her husband John Heiser oversees the maze, she said.
“We both worked together in a step-by-step process, which
included flagging the maze and spraying the rows of corn,” Heiser said. “From there, we just let it grow.”
During the 2008 election year, the theme was based on politics, and the maze featured the words: “Obama or McCain?”
The maze, which takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to navigate, has so far drawn approximately 1,000 people to the site. It costs $2.50 to travel through.
Heiser Farms is located at 21425 SE Grand Island Loop in Dayton, Ore.
For more information about the corn maze, other attractions that the farm offers and hours of operation, visit its website at www.heiserfarms.com.

Jessica Prokop/Culture editor
Jessica Prokop can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.

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