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Nov 1, 2014







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Corn mazes
• Beans and Greens Farm, 245 Intervale Road, Gilford, 293-2853
Approximate maze time: 1 hour plus
Ages 16 and younger must be accompanied by adult, one adult per five kids.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (must be out by 5:45 p.m.)
Night maze Fridays and Saturdays 8 to 10 p.m., $9, reservations required.
Cost: $7 ($5 under 12)
• Beech Hill Farm, 107 Beech Hill Road, Hopkinton, 223-0828, www.beechhillfarm.com
Approximate maze time: 40 min. (each maze)
Hours: 11 a.m. to dusk till Oct. 31
Cost: $5 per person per day (age 3 and younger free); reservations required for groups
• Coppal House Farm, 118 North River Road, Lee, 659-3572, www.nhcornmaze.com
Approximate maze time: 40 min. to an hour
Hours: Wednesday through Friday noon to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In October, seven days per week.
Cost: $8 ($6 for those younger than 12, military, college students, over 62; free for children younger than 5)
• Sunny Prairie Farms, 196 N. River Road, Milford, 673-0647, www.tromblygardens.com
Approximate maze time: 45 min.
Hours: Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Night time Saturday, Oct. 6, to 10 p.m.
Cost: $5 adults, $4 children
• Riverview Farm, 141 River Road, Plainfield, 298-8519, www.riverviewnh.com
Approximate maze time: 30 min.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through end of October
Cost: $4 (free for ages 4 and younger)
• Moulton Farm, 18 Quarry Road, Meredith, 279-3915, www.moultonfarm.com
Approximate maze time: 50 min.
Hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Cost: $5 ($3 ages 6 and younger)





Find your way
Corn stalks make good mazes

09/13/12



These challenges are far from corny.
The bulk of farms that hold corn mazes opened them at the beginning of September, but planning aplenty has gone into these labyrinthine creations since their plantings in May. By the time they are ready for the public, corn fields have been given dirt pathways flanked by 10-foot-high stalks and converted into tourist attractions.
At 8,000 feet above Coppal House in Lee, you can see the shapes of two rabbits, facing one another, shapes that were cut into the corn by workers from a freelance maze company from Missouri who have been cutting for farm owner John Hutton for the past eight years.
Down below, it’s all stalks.
Designs are typically done by converting measurements onto graph paper. In Milford, Beans and Greens’ maze is designed by owners Andy and Martina Howe’s son Alex. In eighth grade, Alex was assigned a math project and chose to design the corn maze for the family farm. That year it was an easy solve.
“He’s figured out more and more things to add to the maze, so it’s been getting more and more difficult each and every year,” Martina Howe said. Many corn mazes include scavenger hunts, trivia questions and other fun twists.
Alex is now in his first year out of college, so the Beans and Greens maze has become rather notorious, Martina said, and it comes with a disclaimer: Expect to be in there at least an hour. Unlike the Coppal House maze, it looks like nothing from the air, but it does have an Olympic-themed trivia game, a scavenger hunt and an easier set of programs for younger kids. Come October, the maze will be open at night. No stadium or personal lighting is necessary, Howe said, because people’s eyes adjust to the dark. As Halloween approaches, they “ramp up the scariness” by adding more costumed staff theatrics and trick-or-treat themed set pieces to the maze.
The Kimballs, Donna and Bob, are also DIYers over at Beech Hill Farm in Hopkinton. They cut their first maze 12 years ago and began a run of history-themed events.
“Schools began bringing groups as part of their curriculum. They were too large and we really couldn’t put them all in at once,” Donna Kimball said. Now the Kimballs have divided it into three mazes and participants can choose the Appalachian Trail, the White House Challenge, or 100-Year Anniversaries and go on a scavenger hunt matched to the theme.
Mazegoers can bring a non-perishable food item to benefit the SHARE charity and receive $1 off the price of admission at Sunny Prairie Farms in Milford, which has a pirate-themed scavenger hunt within its maze with clues and a treasure.
A 3-acre maze has been cut at Lull Farm in Milford. It is in a block design and has no attached games; this one is a straightforward, problem-solving set-up. Moulton Farm in Meredith is themed “All About Corn” and is cut in the shape of a tractor. Moulton’s “maze mastermind,” Wesley Thomas, incorporated dead ends, repeats and overlapping paths. The Moulton maze features a trivia game and prizes as well as a mini-maze with an elevated picnic area for parents.
“We’ve been in the maze business well over 10 years and always done it ourselves. It started with a half acre and has grown to four and a quarter [acres]. It was one of the first ones in the area and we’ve always tried to keep it a family farm event,” said John Moulton, owner of the Moulton farm.
Although they’ve evolved into games, mazes were once used in rituals and processions; they date back to Greek and Roman times. Corn mazes in particular, though, are quite recent. The Amazing Maize Maze, according to www.americanmaze.com, was the first ever, built in 1993 by Don Frantz at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa. Frantz is the creative director of the American Maze Co., the site says, and he attempted to bring a hedge-maze design, an accoutrement for English manors, to a larger scale. The cornfield provided his canvas, a massive area where miles of walking pathway could be snaked through.
The company’s designs garnered national attention and landed it in the Guinness Book of World Records — and, of course, spawned countless imitators. They have become pet projects for many New Hampshire farmers, who say the rewards of becoming an entertainment destination are worth the extra work.
“It helps offset losses,” Howe said. “We’ve had a major infestation of deer that ate about 6,000 heads of lettuce, hawks eating turkeys, an opossum that was eating chickens. There is so much that goes on at the farm that everything, weather, nature, animals, all have an effect. Having the corn maze helps us survive.” Howe said the maze regularly draws a good number of people, providing a positive revenue stream for farm operations.
Mazes bring in different people than those who would come for produce or a tour of the facilities. Coppal House Farms owner John Hutton says that boost in awareness is important.
“We have other products for sale, like winter squash, onions, lamb, pork and eggs — people get interested,” Hutton said.
After a walk through Coppal House’s rabbit-themed maze, a look at the farm’s oil seed crop, which is going to be turned into food-grade canola cooking oil, may pique people’s interest enough so that they come to other events.
Within the maze, Hutton has built in some animal education.
“People that know a lot about rabbits are going to get through it quickly,” he said. Mailboxes at intersections in the rabbit maze contain multiple-choice questions, and each answer has a corresponding route. The correct answer gets you through the maze the quickest. In the past the farm has done dragonfly, turtle, moose and coyote themes.
Typically, corn mazes will be planted in May, and then planning begins so the mazes can be prepared starting in June. The path cutting is done while the corn is still low, one to two feet, Bob Kimball explained, and several cuts are done to ensure a clear path.
As the corn reaches maturity, the mazes open. Some farms will plant faster-growing varieties to move the season up. Sweet corn and cattle corn are not typically used, although they can be. Martina Howe said she uses feed corn and chops it up to use as fertilizer.
“It’s important not to wait too long in the season; the best time to go is before frost when the maze is much more dense. The whole atmosphere is way better when our maze is incredibly healthy,” she said.
At Coppal House, Hutton plants grain-style corn that he turns over for feed after the season.
“The advantage is we get the year’s crop to salvage for feed and a bigger, thicker ear, better than silage or sweet corn, with more leaves, making for a thicker, better maze,” he said.
Of the hundreds of corn varieties, the Kimballs opt for a longer-maturity corn and ignore tonnage or ear yield, focusing on stalk strength and water retention.
“It costs me more to do that, because I am getting special seeds, but it produces stalks that are 10 to 12 feet, some a little higher,” Bob Kimball said.
The Beech Hill Farm maze opens on Aug. 1, a month earlier than most, so the corn needs to be up there longer. A neighbor of the Kimballs has beef cattle and uses the corn after it is cut in November. The stay-green quality has another advantage in its decreased fire risk, Bob Kimball added.
“We have staff safety meetings at the beginning of each of season. It’s a refresher course with the fire department,” Hutton said. “They come in and discuss what’s new, what to look for and what we could do better.”
Local fire departments are notified about corn mazes in town. If the point is to find your way out, people begin the maze lost by default, and farms take precautions as such. Smoking, drinking and running are usually prohibited.
Some Coppal House and Beans and Greens employees become “corn cops,” workers who are well-versed in the year’s maze and who search through it, backward, every 20 minutes looking for people who may be lost, claustrophobic, dehydrated or worse. The Kimballs employ a system of numbered stakes along with their trivia signs, with an emergency number posted on each, so that if mazegoers are in trouble they can call for help.
“There are accidents we’ve heard about,” Bob Kimball said. “Our mazes are on about 15 to 20 acres, you can really get lost in there, so we’ve been promoting safety more and more each year.”
Extra exits have been added to the edges of the Beech Hill maze at various points. If people are in distress, they are able to get out and walk around the side of the maze, Kimball said.
A problem Beans and Greens has experienced is lack of adult supervision. Howe said parents would too often drop children off and then leave, which, combined with the difficulty of the maze, led to damaged stalks, running and other mischief. Children under 16 require adult supervision and a ratio of at least one adult for every five children in a given group.
“It’s about having fun,” Donna Kimball said. “They’re educational as well as being good exercise ... we try to come up with things that appropriate for school-age children, as well fun things that appeal to adults.”






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