Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Getting the most maize for your buck

By: Anthony Calabrese

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. - Local farms take advantage of the agritourism craze by building corn mazes.  Agritourism is any type of attraction that can bring revenue to farms. Area farmers have been utilizing the strategy differently. 
The 3.5 acre corn maze is only one of many agritourism features at Rulf’s Orchard in Peru, New York.
“We even have an orchard to pick fresh apples, freshly pressed apple cider, even take rides down to the pumpkin patch.” said Derek Mckee, delivery driver and maintenance man. 
            In addition Rulf’s offers a night maze two weekends out of the year and hosts a bonfire where visitors can drink free fresh pressed apple cider.
            Plattsburgh resident Marci Hamel, business owner/ title searcher takes her children Nik (12) and Leah (9) to Rulf’s. She said, “We like the challenge it’s a lot harder.  We had fun hiding from each other, and playing around for the first hour. Then we got so lost that we just took a straight line for the second hour to finally get out of the maze.”
Fourteen miles away in Plattsburgh, at Country Dreams farm, Owner Melissa Monty-Provost explains their agritourism practices, “When you come to visit the maze,” she said, “We bring you to the maze from the parking lot and give you a tour of the front side of the maze. (We) take horses every weekend to transport people to the corn maze and pumpkin patch field. We only use the tractors on the weekends if it is really busy or if there is a special request such as boy scouts come into town.”
            After the Halloween season Country Dreams farm harvests their corn stalks to feed their livestock’s that consist of goats, horses, chickens, donkeys, and cows. This is a real operational animal and crop farm, it’s more than just a corn maze, there is also a petting zoo, and a kids play area.” Monty-Prevost said.
When asked about the one thing that people don’t know about her corn maze Monty-Provost responded, “I think people don’t realize how much work we put in the maze. It’s our heart and soul.”
 Hamel’s family also has visited Country Dreams Farm. “Country Dreams is a lot of fun as well, because they have the petting zoo, where they actually take you on a ride pulled by their very own horses.”
 Two hours south on interstate 87 is Schuyler Farm. The corn maze here is seven acres and has been around for 13 years. Co-owner Ken Macica is proud to discuss how, “we use blueprints, and set the field up on a paper grid showing each row of corn, and how they map out the maze.”
Macica notes how the corn maze fits in nicely with both the location of their farm and the other areas of their business. Being right off the highway makes their greenhouses visible in the spring and the corn maze in the fall.
One farm that uses the corn maze completely differently than the others is Tucker Farm. The Corn maze is the primary revenue generator in the fall according Vice President Tom Tucker.
Once September hits, Tucker Farm will be in full swing harvesting their main product, seed potatoes. Potatoes happen to be this year’s corn maze theme of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head vacationing in the Adirondacks.
According to Tucker, all of the employees and the Tucker family come together to decide the theme of the eight acre maze. They are proud that they design and manage the entire corn maze themselves.
Plattsburgh area corn mazes range in size from three to eight acres and have been in business between five and 13 years. Prices vary from $4 - $14. The mazes range from family friendly in the daylight to haunted and spooky at night.


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