Come Home to the Farm

October 22, 2012 | 4:10 pm

Every fall, American families come home to the farm! It used to be that everyone could visit a relative’s farm.  Everyone had a farmer in the family, but that just isn’t so anymore.  My dad still farms and for the past thirteen years, he has opened his farm in the fall to the community.

As autumn arrives, his farm, called Dan-D Farms,and lots of other corn mazes and pumpkin patches across America open their gates and barns to families for a “farm-tastic” good time!  Getting lost in a corn maze, hunting down the perfect pumpkin, and feeding the farm animals in the barnyard are becoming family traditions.  Each year, I dress my kids in pumpkin shirts and snap photos of them laughing and running through the fields.  The freedom and fresh air brings out the fun in everyone!

Entertaining the community on the farm has provided an opportunity for farmers like my Dad to educate others about food production. He chuckles at the thought that people actually pay to walk through his corn field, something he has done almost every day of his life.  He is most comfortable in the fields and it is sad to think that most people have not experienced this simple pleasure. Creating a corn maze year after year allows him to share this experience with others.

The most common question asked during the corn maze season is, “How do you get the pattern in the field?” The details could be lengthy, so here’s the jest of it. First, the design is created and drawn out on grid paper. Then, he double plants the corn in the field. This means he plants rows from North to South and then plants the field going East to West. As the corn grows it creates a pattern of squares, just like you see on grid paper.

When the corn is about twelve inches tall, he cuts the maze pattern into the field of corn. Not every corn maze is cut the same. Some farmers use GPS, others will count the rows as they go. Over the past thirteen years, my dad has used three different methods of removing the corn to create the pattern; herbicide, mowing, or tillage.

Due to the location and nature of the business, the same soil has been growing corn for thirteen years. The corn maze soil is maintained like all of the other soil Dad farms. Each year, crop nutrients have to be replaced that were taken out with last year’s harvest. Without fertilizer, the corn would be weak and malnourished. Herbicides are applied to keep grass and other weeds from growing.  If the weeds were allowed to grow, they would use up all of the nutrients and water in the soil, essentially suffocating the young corn plants.

As my family walks the twist and turns of the corn maze, I smile, knowing that Dad continues to farm the ground my grandfather and great-grandfather farmed. He proudly works from sun up to sun down, 365 days of the year in a career that feeds the world.

School buses of kids and mini-vans with families come to the farm to play in the corn box and jump on the hay bales.  They experience agriculture and leave with memories that will last a lifetime!