Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

Home · Articles · News · Features · Corn Maze Mania
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Corn Maze Mania

How I got lost and found in a field of corn

Erin Crowell - October 15th, 2012  

For awhile, all I hear is the rustling of dry corn stalks in the wind. Then, I hear the laughter of a child somewhere toward the west. I can’t see anyone, but I know they are wandering like me through this maze of maize.

It’s a sunny Monday afternoon at Jacob’s corn maze, located about three and a half miles west of Traverse City. From the corn, I can see the giant Traverse City Light & Power windmill and the line of cars headed home on M-72.

I look down at my map and realize I’m standing next to the giant ‘B’ of ‘JACOB’S’ that is cut into the 10 acres of corn, visible only to those in flight.

POPULARITY OF THE MAIZE

Corn mazes date back to the time of the Romans, when mazes appeared in everything from artwork and gardens to streets and public buildings. They’ve been used for rituals and processions, for meditation and for—well, to get lost.

For years, we’ve seen mysterious crop circles appear overnight and with the help of technology, intricate and accurate designs can be created in a matter of hours.

It’s hard to count the number of corn mazes in the United States, since many are privately owned; however, by 1998, there were hundreds popping up across the country.

In Northern Michigan, alone, there are at least 10 mazes—both corn and baled hay— to explore. Mazes vary by size, difficulty and design.

At Jacob’s Corn Maze, the goal is to find checkpoints within the maze. There are also no dead-ends. However, that doesn’t make it any less challenging.

“Some people say, ‘this is not a walk in the stalks,’” laughed Michael Witkop, owner of Jacob’s.

HISTORY AND DESIGN

The farm has been in the Witkop family since its start in 1892, making it 120 years old today. When Witkop and his wife Laverna purchased the farm from his parents 20 years ago, it was for the sole purpose of not letting it leave the family. However, Witkop didn’t have a plan for what to do with it until 10 years later.

“Around this time, agro-tourism started becoming a buzz word and I was looking for someone with—and this is a technical term— stupid money,” laughed Witkop. “Basically, I was looking for someone who wanted to live in Traverse City by putting their money into something that doesn’t make a lot in return.”

Witkop looked at wineries, cheese production and tea until he stumbled across something else.

“I was going through some materials and landed on a package about corn mazes. Three years before, it didn’t make sense, but I spent nine months researching corn mazes.”

Jacob’s Corn Maze has since become the focus point of the Jacob Farm, featuring intricately designed mazes on their 10-acres of field corn, the type of corn that is used for producing corn syrup, ethanol and other products.

The farm uses no chemicals, along with a “no till” process. Each spring, the corn is planted and grows until late June when Shawn Stolworthy—an Idaho artist who designs about 100 mazes a year—comes in and cuts the knee-high corn into a computer-aided design created by Witkop and himself.

“The process only takes about six hours,” said Witkop, noting Stolworthy can cut at night since he is guided by reading a monitor controlled by GPS satellite.

“It’s just a five-foot rototiller on the back of a tractor creating a dirt path,” said Wiktop. “In August we just go through with a tractor and mow down any weeds and grass.”

Each year features a new design, including the “Cow and Barn” in 2008, the “Double Eagles” in 2009, the “Dinosaur” in 2010 and “Pirates” in 2011.

IN THE MAZE

This year’s maze is the “Bronco Bustin Roundup,” featuring two horses and a bull. There are a total of three mazes—including one children’s maze—with five and a half miles of trails.

Participants find check-points scattered throughout each maze using a map.

“It’s easy to get a bit disoriented at times, but we’ve never not had anyone not make it out,” said Witkop. “The first year, we brought a bunch of folks out from our church and, ironically, the people who had the most difficulty were two engineers. They were over-thinking the process.”

Although I wasn’t over-thinking the process, I did get disoriented as Witkop said. Thankfully, all I had to do was match my map to the silo and place my finger where I was. From then on, my finger never left the map as I traced my way through the loop, punching my card at each check-point.

I finished around 20 minutes, the average time it takes to traverse the maze.

“Some people will time themselves to see how fast they can get through,” said Witkop, who added families can spend up to two hours at the farm.

Other amenities include a Farm Scene Investigation Game for the kids (think “Clue”), a bonfire pit, apple chucking, tractor rides, farm market and concession stand, which—as I repeatedly said aloud while licking my fingers—offers the best donuts I’ve ever had.

“It takes time for the donuts to cool after coming out of the fryer, but folks won’t wait. They want them now,” said Steve Fouch, who along with his wife Lisa, co-own Jacob’s Farm with the Witkops.

I may have found my way successfully through the maze, but I’ll be coming back for the donuts.

Jacob’s Farm is located at 7100 E. Traverse Highway, Traverse City. Hours are Mon., Tues. & Thurs., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-7 p.m.; and Wed., Fri. & Sat., from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., with a flashlight maze offered those days. Admission, $8 for adults; $6 for ages 3-11 and free for children under three years of age. Visit Jacobs-corn-maze. com or call 231-632-6293.

 
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