Fall is the perfect time for families to flock to the farm, making memories together while enjoying the great outdoors. In recent years, there’s been a rise in agritourism, with farms offering fun activities and education for kids and adults alike – all to diversify their operations and create additional sources of income.
Each year, more farms are hopping on the agritourism bandwagon and adding significantly to their profits. According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, the number of farms that made more than $25,000 from agritourism increased from 4,518 to 5,553 in just five years, from 2012 to 2017.
These are just three of the many farms that have broadened their operations from traditional agricultural production to become agritourism destinations with elaborate Florida corn mazes.
Conner’s A-Maize-ing Acres
This family-owned farm in Hilliard was founded in the 1940s by Ellis Conner and his wife, Lottie, who began growing vegetables and raising cattle and chickens for Tyson Foods. When Tyson left the state in 2003, their son, Eddie Conner, who had taken over the farm after his parents passed away, knew he needed to diversify the business to survive.
Eddie’s daughter, Amanda, pitched the idea of creating a corn maze, having visited one a few years before. Though Eddie balked at the thought at the time, with lots of prayer and research, he says, they decided to plant a corn maze and open their farm to visitors.
Today, roughly 15,000 visitors come to experience Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres each year. Besides getting lost in the maze, visitors can take a wagon ride, pet farm animals, play cornhole, shop the general store (think local honey and jellies), and indulge in homemade smoked barbecue, kettle corn and other tasty treats. The many facets of the farm keep everyone from family to close friends busy preparing for the fall season.
“We have fun working and teaching the next generation how to work hard and earn a living while doing what we love,” Eddie says. “Our family tries to stress the importance of family farms and the impact we have in all parts of life. We love our farmers and want everyone who visits to leave with a love for them, too.”
Scott’s Maze Adventures
When Frank Scott Jr. started a small family farm in Mount Dora back in the early 1960s, he never could have imagined that one day, the same soil would host between 25,000 to 30,000 annual visitors coming to explore its cornfields.
Frank’s family members have been stewards of the land for generations, and today, Frank’s son, Hank, and Hank’s son, Sonny, manage Long & Scott Farms. The addition in 2003 of two corn mazes – a 1-acre mini maze with an educational component and a 6-acre maze with a game element – followed that same mindset.
“To us, agritourism is the ability to bring the general public out to our farm, for both fun and education, so they will be able
to make better food choices and support farmers,” says Rebecca Tyndall, Frank’s daughter, who manages the corn maze and agritourism operations. “We also hope that in educating youth, we can cultivate the next generation of farmers.”
It’s a lot of work to prepare the field, plant and maintain the corn, landscape the parking area, make sure all equipment is safe (like the zip line and playground for kids), come up with maze designs and themes, plan activities, and coordinate schedules around school groups and corporate team building. There’s also a balance of working around things you can’t control, like the weather, Tyndall says. However, it can be very rewarding, knowing the farm feeds so many people, she adds – and meeting people who appreciate what they do makes it all worth it.
Amazing Grace Crop Maze
In 2012, after attending a breakout session on agritourism at Florida Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference, husband-and-wife team Justin and Kelly Mosley wanted to find a way to entice tourists to learn about agriculture in Clay County. After praying about it, Kelly says they felt God was leading them to open something new – so in fall of 2013, they launched Amazing Grace Crop Maze.
“The name comes from our faith, family and farming,” Kelly explains. “Amazing Grace is a testament to the grace God has for us. Grace is our daughter’s middle name, and the letters AG are short for agriculture.”
Hoping to provide a place for families to spend time together and create memories, the Mosleys built an entire experience around their 5-acre maze, which is designed and cut by The Maize, a premier corn maze design company based out of Utah. There’s a shorter route for kids, as well as a more challenging route for the more adventurous.
In addition to the corn maze, visitors can interact with barnyard animals, stroll through sunflower fields, play on the jump pad, explore the pumpkin patch, take a hayride, or snack on boiled peanuts and snow cones. A wheelchair-accessible swing, hayride and corn sensory table ensure access for everyone, even if they can’t physically navigate the maze.
The extra effort the Mosleys and their staff put in doesn’t go unnoticed. “We get many stories every season where one of our team members provided second-mile service to a guest and it had a positive impact on their visit to the farm,” Kelly says.
Where to Find Florida Corn Mazes
Amazing Grace Crop Maze: 2899 Wisteria Farm Rd., Green Cove Springs
Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres: 19856 County Rd. 121, Hilliard
Scott’s Maze Adventures: 26216 County Rd. 448A, Mount Dora
Please always check the farm’s website and social media or call ahead to plan your visit. For more information on fall agritourism offerings throughout the state, go to visitfloridafarms.com.