Madison County Farm Owners Bring Corn Maze, Exotic Petting Zoo to Northeast Georgia

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 her sister, McClure, have owned the 200-acre farm for about 16 years. This was their first time designing, building and growing a corn maze.

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

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

Funding the Farm with Silage Corn

Farming has always been something Kaye wanted to pursue full time; however, she quickly realized that wasn’t feasible. 

Since they have so many animals, the corn maze will help make a dent in farm upkeep costs, as well as an added bonus. 

Broad River Corn Maze used a late season silage corn. Corn can be harvested as grain or silage, and silage is what is used to feed animals. Silage corn is popular for being an easily-digestible, high-energy crop. It is used on 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 through Halloween weekend. (Photo/Megan Mittelhammer)

When the season is over at the start of November, the corn will be harvested and used as feed for Kaye’s 100 animals.

Growing and Cutting

The sisters enlisted their husbands’ help to plant the corn and cut it to the specific maze path. 

We are do-it-yourselfers, and that was probably the most difficult part,” Kaye said. 

The sisters explained that most corn mazes are cut with tractors that use GPS navigation systems, but Broad River farms used a zero-turn mower. While the sisters held up tall poles to reach above the corn, the husbands would drive the mower to meet them.

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

The sisters began planning for the maze about five years ago but didn’t begin planting until March. Late season silage corn grows best in rainy climates, McClure said, but the weather in Madison County lended itself to what they described as “something about great corn growth.”

And if you do happen to get lost in a corn maze, the sisters get their nieces — who now know the maze by heart — to run through from time to time and help stragglers make it to the end.

Community Engagement

The sisters also knew there would be local interest in family-friendly outdoor activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Oct. 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’s a hay bouncing pit, pumpkin patch and petting zoo. The camels and goats are a highlight for visitors.

Two camels pace around their pen at the Broad River Corn Maze. A special feature at the maze is the exotic animal petting zoo. (Photo/Megan Mittelhammer).

“We already had a lot of animals on our farm, including some exotics, we’ve had camels for 23 years,” Kaye said. “We always think it’s a good idea for people to have exposure to farm animals. We feel like a corn maze will be fun, but a lot of people would be most interested in the animals.” 

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

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

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

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

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

Megan Mittelhammer is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

 

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