Local maze is an example of 'farming in the marketplace'

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Tue., Sep. 13, 2011
(L-r) Marissa Valentine, Chris Masterson, Nicole Labonte, Ryan Sheehan and Nicole Sullivan came from Douglas, Mass., to enjoy the corn maze. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L-r) Marissa Valentine, Chris Masterson, Nicole Labonte, Ryan Sheehan and Nicole Sullivan came from Douglas, Mass., to enjoy the corn maze. Photos by D. Coffey.

The corn maze at Fort Hill Farms in Thompson puts an educational spin on a fun fall activity. Finding one's way through the maze is one thing. Learning about dairy farming and agriculture in Connecticut is another. Owners Peter and Kristen Orr have managed to combine the two for an adventurous outing.

The maze spreads out over 6 acres. Corn stalks rise 8 feet in the air. With the help of GPS and a tractor/rototiller combination, the Orrs were able to cut the maze in half a day. “Ten years ago, it took two weeks to cut it,” Peter Orr said. Thankfully, GPS systems have replaced the graph paper plans he used to go by.

It’s one more example of how Fort Hill Farms is keeping up with the changing times. Peter calls it, “farming in the marketplace.”

“There’s a great opportunity for farms to contribute to the local communities,” he said. “We’re providing entertainment, education, and ice cream, which is derived from the herd on the farm. It’s a complete cycle.”

The maze is cut through 6 of the nearly 300 acres of corn grown for silage for the Holstein herd. More than 16 miles of color-coded ribbon allow people to wind their way through the maze. Most people spend about an hour and a half in the maze. And if someone gets lost, Peter said, there is a cell phone number provided to ensure rescue by the “Maze Master.”

Story boards provide facts and figures regarding agricultural production in the state. The Orrs hope the information will raise the public’s appreciation for local farms and the issues affecting them.

Take the farm gate price of milk, for example. The complicated formula set by the federal government in the 1940s established the price paid to farmers for their milk. “The joke is that only two people in Washington understand how the price of milk is set,” Peter said, “and they don’t agree.” The price pays less than the cost of production for farmers in New England, he added.

“We’re inviting the public to have a farm experience and take home a memory,” Peter said. “We’re inviting them to set up a family tradition.”

 


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