Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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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.


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.


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.


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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