LEETONIA, Ohio (WKBN) – There are many signs that fall is coming: the leaves turn, the temperatures drop a little, every food company comes out with a pumpkin spice item, and corn mazes start advertising.
While a good corn maze pattern will get you as dazed as a heavy pumpkin ale would on a cool fall day, how exactly do farmers cut those patterns on such a large Mother Nature-grown canvas?
“We hired a gentleman out of Pa. in the first two years; that’s how we had ours cut,” co-owner of Rolling Acres Corn Maze John Stainer said. “We started in January to give him ideas of what we wanted, he worked on graphics, and then we go back and forth with emails. And once we get the design that we want, we finalize it, then he uploads it into his GPS. That way, when he comes out to cut the maze, it’s loaded up and he’s ready to go.”
That’s one way to cut the maze, and it’s not cheap. Stainer and his brother-in-law, Jamie Campbell, said it can cost them anywhere from $5,000 to $6,000 to have it cut.
“There’s a couple processes of planting the corn. The one, you can actually use a corn planter that’s hooked to a computer system and it will plant the corn just specifically where you need it and leave spaces out,” Campbell said. “I’m sure the program’s quite expensive for the planter.”
At Rolling Acres, they want to have fun, but they don’t play around when it comes to planting the maze.
“This field here, we plant in two different directions; that way, somebody cannot see down a row to know which way the corn’s growing so it’s all blocked off with two different directions of the planting,” Campbell said.
Stainer and Campbell admitted that with the pandemic going on, they weren’t sure they would be able to open.
To cut costs, they decided to take a look at the corn-maze-making days of old and cut it themselves.
“Came up with some ideas, I drew up the field to scale, and we just decided on a geo maze, using circles, squares, triangles,” Stainer said. “We placed stakes in the ground, used rope that was measured out 10, 20, 30 feet up to 80 feet.”
They waited until the corn was about two feet tall and then got out the Cadillac of lawn mowers — the zero-turn — and started cutting.
“The tallest it could be is 4-foot,” Stainer said. “The old-school way, it took us the whole day, it was probably nine to 10 hours we were out here, and that’s not counting the set up prior to, the designing.”
Rolling Acres is a family operation and it took four people to complete the maze. Typically, it takes the maze cutter from Pennsylvania two hours to do, including an aerial drone picture of the finished work.
“There were a couple mistakes, but we were able to fix it,” Campbell said. “It’s corn. You just mow your path a different direction. We changed a few things at the end, but I think it came out very well for doing it the way we did it — old school, using ropes and pins.”
This year marks year three, and they had to deviate from their themes of fall, Halloween and farm-esque corn maze designs because they had to do it in a rudimentary way without GPS.
“Obviously, we had the farm, and we just were trying to come up with more ways to utilize it,” Campbell said. “Plus, around this area right here, there really isn’t much for younger generations to do, so we decided to put the corn maze in and try to get something here for the younger generations to come out and play and enjoy.”
On top of the corn maze, they have many games including mind-teasers that test your wit, and they add something new each year.
“Last year, we added the zipline, which was a big success, but because of COVID this year, we aren’t using it right now,” Stainer said. “We did add the Putt-Putt golf course, and we also added slingshot so that made up, more than made up for it, so we’ve expanded the corn maze this year.”
Last weekend was opening weekend for Rolling Acres and they said people followed COVID guidelines and seemed to enjoy being outdoors.
“We try to add something new every year, and next year we add something else, so look forward to something else coming in next year,” Campbell said. “We’re just going to keep expanding and moving forward.”
They offer discounts to veterans as well. Stainer and his sister-in-law are both retired from the Air Force and he has three children currently in the military.
Rolling Acres is located at 1184 Lisbon Canfield Rd. in Leetonia. You can find more information about hours of operation, costs and COVID-19 guidelines on its website.
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