Madison County farm owners bring exotic corn maze and petting zoo to northeast Georgia – Grady Newsource

Walking through a corn maze can be exciting and mysterious. The tall stalks of corn loom overhead, and with each turn the path becomes more difficult. But the process to grow a maze is harder than it looks.  Broad River Corn Maze farm owners Michelle Kaye and Jennifer McClure realized that firsthand this season.

We now know that we can successfully grow corn,” Kaye said.

 Why It’s Newsworthy: Northeast Georgia is preparing for cool weather, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep families busy this season. In a rural and agriculturally-dominant region, local Madison County farmers tried their hand at growing their first corn maze.  . 

About 30 minutes outside of Athens and just off of U.S. Highway 29 lies Broad River Corn Maze.

Kaye and his sister McClure have owned the 200-acre farm for about 16 years. It was their first time to design, build and cultivate a corn maze.

“There really isn’t one between Athens and Lake Hartwell, and we thought we had the farm, we have the animals, and why not give it a go,” Kaye said.

In northeast Georgia, Jaemor Farms and Washington Farms host family-friendly corn mazes and extra activities. Zombie Farms in Washington, Georgia offers a nighttime maze and forest walk with a themed zombie experience.

Financing the farm with silage corn

Farming has always been something Kaye wanted to pursue full time; however, she soon realized that this was not feasible.

Since they have so many animals, the corn maze will help reduce farm maintenance costs, as well as an added bonus.

Broad River Corn Maze used late season corn silage. Corn can be harvested as grain or silage, and silage is what is used to feed animals. Corn silage is popular for being a high energy culture, easy to digest. It is used in many dairy farms, and in this case, for animals of all kinds.

A piece of corn lies on the ground at the Broad River Corn Maze in Danielsville, Georgia. The maze is open on weekends until Halloween weekend. (Photo / Megan Mittelhammer)

At the end of the season, in early November, the corn will be harvested and used as fodder for Kaye’s 100 animals.

Cultivate and cut

The sisters enlisted the help of their husbands to plant the corn and cut it on the way to the specific maze.

We’re tinkerers, and that was probably the hardest part, ”Kaye said.

The sisters explained that most of the corn mazes are cut with tractors using GPS navigation systems, but the farms in Broad River used a zero-turn mower. While the sisters waved high poles to reach for the corn, the husbands led the mower to meet them.

A map of the Broad River Corn Maze. Kaye and McClure’s husbands themselves cut the corn path, but next year Kaye said they would likely hire someone to cut it. (Photo / Megan Mittelhammer)

The sisters started planning the maze about five years ago, but didn’t start planting until March. Late-season silage corn grows best in rainy climates, McClure said, but the weather in Madison County lent itself to what they described as “something about excellent corn growth. “.

And if you happen to get lost in a corn maze, the sisters ask their nieces – who now know the maze by heart – to run through it every now and then and help the latecomers complete it.

Community engagement

The sisters also knew there would be local interest in family outdoor activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 1, Madison County reported 225 new cases.

“I think the best place to be during the current COVID conditions is to be outside,” Kaye said.

There is a hay pit, a pumpkin patch and a petting zoo. Camels and goats are a highlight for visitors.

Two camels walk around their enclosure at the Broad River Corn Maze. A special feature of the labyrinth is the zoo for exotic animals. (Photo / Megan Mittelhammer).

“We already had a lot of animals on our farm, including exotic animals, we’ve had camels for 23 years,” Kaye said. “We always think it’s a good idea for people to be exposed to farm animals. We think a corn maze will be fun, but a lot of people would be more interested in animals.

The 10-acre maze has received positive feedback from the community.

Lucy, one of the two goats at Broad River Corn Maze, pokes her head through the slats of her pen. Broad River Corn Maze features a petting zoo as well as a corn maze. (Photo / Megan Mittelhammer)

“We actually live right down the street and saw the signs posted so we walked past to see what it was about,” neighbor Mallory Moore said.

“We’ve been here twice, kids love it,” added her husband Darren.

The Broad River Corn Maze is open until Halloween weekend. Visitors from all over Georgia can participate in the corn maze, petting zoo, and other fun activities.

Megan Mittelhammer graduated in Journalism from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

About Marco C. Nichols

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