An interview with Margaret Snow of Oklahoma Heritage Farm about the ins (and hopefully outs!) of corn mazes.
My love for corn mazes goes back to a high school field trip. I was painfully shy in middle school, and it took me a good year to loosen up at my new high school, but by the time we visited the corn maze, I was finally beginning to build some good friendships. I think this is one reason I look back on the memory so fondly. I remember feeling the freedom to act goofy, out there in the dark and the corn and the night air that smelled like fall with just a hint of fear.
Although I did not venture into a corn maze again for many years, I still consider corn mazes one of fall’s premier activities.
According to the American Maze Company (and Wikipedia!) the first public corn maze was constructed by the American Maze Company in 1993 at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. Also according to Wikipedia, as of 2014, the largest corn maze to date was an impressive 60 acres!
Of course, mazes themselves have been around much longer than 20-some years. If you studied Greek mythology, you’ll remember the labyrinth constructed to house the fearsome Minotaur. More modern portrayals of mazes include the enchanted Triwizard Maze in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” and the chilling maze scene at the end of “The Shining.” Perhaps this is one reason why mazes are so suited to the Halloween season: both in literature and in their essential function as a place to get lost, they are inherently spooky.
I interviewed Margaret Snow of Oklahoma Heritage Farm to learn more about constructing corn mazes. Here is what I learned:
TR: Who designed your maze?
MS: I actually came up with the overall design, but we turn it in to a professional maze company that computerizes the entire thing to determine the paths and fit the exact dimensions of our field.
TR: What does the design signify?
MS: Since we are a working farm and have a long family history of being involved in the agriculture industry, we wanted our theme this year to center around farming. The theme of our maze is “Farmers Feed the World.” The entire design reflects the importance for farming for food around the world.
TR: How many acres does the maze cover?
MS: We increased the size of our maze this year to 11 acres. The design includes a mini maze just for the little ones to enjoy and the entire mega maze that is pretty challening.
TR: Approximately how many ears of corn are in that area?
MS: We actually plant the area with a sudan forage because it is much more drought resistant, grows to a height of 8-12 feet, is more dense, and stays green well into the fall. We have found that it is a much better choice for Oklahoma summers and staying pretty throughout the fall. We do plant it when there is good moisture and before the real hot summer hits.
TR: How is the maze cut, and how long does it take? What happens if you make a mistake?
MS: The entire design is cut using a small bobcat-type machine with a clipper on the front that is aided by a GPS to cut the design. As long as you have a good crop, this method pretty much eliminates mistakes in the design. It does have to be cut when the crop is about two feet high. The big challenge is maintaining the pathways after the design is cut for several months until our festival. There is plenty of cutting and trimming to keep it festival ready from when it is first cut in July to when we open in September.
TR: What do you know about the history of corn mazes?
MS: I’m not sure when mazes became popular, but in doing a lot of research before we embarked on the adventure, I found there are different ways to do them depending on your location and the growing season. We opted for what we thought was the best choice for our particular field, and we were happy to find a company that had years of maze experience throughout the company to help us.
TR: About how long should one expect to spend in the larger maze?
MS: This year we know that even an experienced maze visitor may spend a little time finding their way through our maze, so we have positioned five flags throughout that will have clues that direct you to the next flag and finally the exit. If every clue is collected, then you will be entered in a drawing for a nice prize. If you are pretty good at mazes, it is possible to breeze through our entire maze in less than an hour, but it sure could take longer, too.
TR: How many years have you been doing a corn maze at your farm, and what are some things you’ve learned about them over the years?
MS: I have learned that having a maze is an amazing project. We are still learning since we only started our first maze in 2016. I will say the whole process is quite an experience and absolutely worth the trouble when we see everyone enjoying it. It is also quite fun to see the small planes fly over our place and look at it from the air.
Oklahoma Heritage Farm is located midway between Tulsa and Bartlesville, at 38512 US Highway 75, Ramona, Oklahoma. Their fall events are open from September 22-October 29. Visit them on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
For a complete list of Pumpkin Patches in the Tulsa area–many of which include a maze of corn, hay or other material, check out our list here.