Is there anything that says “fall” better than the changing leaves or a warm mug of apple cider or a ghoulish-looking jack-o’-lantern perched on a stoop? Probably not, but if the trend continues, we might just add one more sure sign of fall to that list: getting lost in a corn maze.
Corn mazes are all the rage right now across the country and right here in The Great Waterway region. Farmers are getting creative with their designs, making them more challenging and enticing every year.
Two of those farmers are Garth and Marianne Walker, who run one of the most popular corn mazes in the region on their 50-acre Wolfe Island property. It’s open now until early November.
“When we started in 2001, we were unsure who our market would be,” says Marianne. “But over the years we discovered that our customers come from many walks of life. We also discovered that the more difficult we made the maze, the more people enjoyed it.”
This year they’ve doubled their difficulty by adding a second maze. They’ve also added a refreshment area between the mazes called “Oasis Rest Stop” for those just needing a drink or those (i.e. me) just needing to not be lost for a few minutes.
Ironically, Garth and Marianne’s maze idea grew out of a challenge they themselves were having soon after purchasing their small farm in 2000. “Like many small farmers, we were faced with the struggle of how to generate income from a small acreage,” says Marianne. “We immediately realized that it wasn’t feasible to purchase large scale farm equipment.”
And so, they began doing their research and thinking about new ways to keep their farm afloat. One idea struck them early in the process after reading about a small farm in Saskatchewan that had opened a corn maze and drew over 5,000 people in its first year.
“We were inspired by their story and decided to try the same thing,” says Marianne.
They opened their first maze in 2001, and now, almost twelve years later, they’re still welcoming more visitors every year who just want to get lost in a corn field.
That said it’s probably not just the maze that keeps the young, old and every age in between coming back year after year. Once again, they’ll have their wind turbine exhibit on display that uses large photos and information supplied by Canadian Hydro to educate visitors about the Wolfe Island wind turbine project.
Before or after the maze, you can also play volleyball and croquet, carve a pumpkin or visit with three different rabbit breeds, a flock of fourteen sheep and two Angora/Pygmy goats named Thelma and Louise. “Children are fascinated with the animals,” says Marianne, “but their favourite over the years has always been our beautiful calico farm cat, Kitty.”
Whether it’s a cat named Kitty or a corn labyrinth that draws you to Garth and Marianne’s farm, expect to leave with a big smile and bit more knowledge about small farms.
“Our goal when we began was to create a venue that would combine exercise with agricultural awareness and good clean fun,” says Marianne. Twelve successful years later, it’s safe to say they achieved their goal.