By Gary Brock
XENIA – For Marcie and Dale Hagler, the annual fall corn maze at their Apple Country Farm Market is more than a fun attraction that draws thousands to their Spring Valley farm each year.
For them, it is a cause.
When their 14th season of nine-acre plus corn mazes opens to the public Sept. 10 and running through Nov. 6, visitors will not just be having a great time weaving and puzzling through the maze, they will be helping a worthy cause.
A five-year breast cancer survivor, Marcie Hagler says that a portion of the proceeds for the “Harvesting A Cure” themed maze will be used to support cancer patients and survivors. She said the targeted proceeds will go to the Greene Foundation, Circle of Victory to benefit cancer patients in Greene County.
Her battle against breast cancer “Really hit home when we were choosing recipients for donations,” she said. “When I had breast cancer it was amazing how supportive everyone was. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to give back and do something for the Greene County Circle of Victory for breast cancer research? That is where it originated with my passion for this.”
In fact, the owners of Apple Country Farm Market have been donating a portion of the proceeds from their annual corn maze to charity since they started it 14 years ago. It has been during the last few years that the theme for the mazes has involved battling cancer and finding a cure.
In 2014, the theme was “Save the Udders” and in 2015 it was “Tree of Hope.”
“Because we are very community driven, we have over the years donated a portion of the proceeds to local organizations such as Greene County YMCA, Tecumseh Council of Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts. The last few years we have been donating to the Circle of Victory for breast cancer awareness, and have donated over $7,500 – the total over the years has been more than $20,000 donated back to the community,” she said.
In the first few years of the corn mazes, they averaged about 5,000 visitors. “The last years we have been averaging about 15,000 people,” she said. “But it is always so weather dependent. There have been seasons when it has rained every weekend.”
The Haglers opened the farm market – from the ground up – in 1999, and opened the maze a few years after that.
“We usually plant the maze the last week of June, first week in July. This is a little later than you usually plant corn so that the live stalks stand up better later in the fall months. Then we cut it out when it is two to three feet high. We use a GPS system to cut it out,” she said. They have used this high-tech method since they started cutting out the mazes.
“Once we cut the paths out, it is an ongoing job to keep the paths clear until we open,” she said.
And what sort of maze will visitors weave their way through this year?
“Due to the design, this is one of the more difficult maze we have done. The size is basically the same, but this degree of difficulty is greater,” she said. She added that they also have a “mini maze” to the side of the big maze for kids and school groups for basically three to eight years old.
“JD Equipment Inc. is our primary sponsor and this is depicted in the maze with a John Deere combine and their logo in the maze. We also have a pink ribbon in the maze for breast cancer awareness, plus two bridges,” she pointed out. The maze will have about 15,000 feet of paths and cuts through more than 300,000 living corn stalks. “There is a lot of paths and a lot of corn to get through.”
Estimated time to get through it? “The maze is designed to be interactive. There is a mazopoly game that is like a scavenger hunt with stations throughout the maze that navigates you to other stations. There are also ‘passports’ directing you through the maze to different locations. Depending what game you choose, it should take about an hour and a half,” she said. There are also halfway points where visitors can exit and take a break or if they only want to do half the maze.
Once the maze season is finished in November, they will harvest the corn.
Hagler says the maze is a nice family-oriented component for people to enjoy while at their farm.
In addition to the mazes, other activities include hayrides on weekends, a mini straw maze, there are farm animals to pet, pumpkin painting and an area to reserve and book for campfires for groups of 20 or more.
Hours for the farm and maze are weekends from Sept. 10 – Nov. 6; Friday: 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday: 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.; Sun. – 1 p.m. –6 p.m.
Tuesday through Friday: Groups of 20 or more by reservation only. Call for special weekday scheduling and discounts.
Maze admission is adults, $9; children (4-12 yrs): $7; 3 and under are free.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.