MY OUTLOOK: Erik Lee, Farmer with Pops Arcadia Corn Maze
How long have you been hosting the corn maze?
This is the second year we have done the maze.
How do you make a corn maze?
It starts with the planting. Corn in this part of the country is typically planted in April; however, we wait until June. Next, we use a different planting technique than normal farmers. Typically, when farmers plant corn they make one pass over their field with their planter. When planting the maze, we pull into the field, plant east and west, and then plant it north and south, too. This creates a grid pattern that is very important in the maze design process. When the corn is in the ground, we do what farmers do best—sit, wait, and pray it rains. Once we get the rain, the process of cutting the maze begins.
Why do you plant it later than typical farmers?
For maze purposes, planting the crop too early creates one simple problem. The corn does what we call “drying down” where it changes from a thick bright green plant to the typical yellow corn stalks you see people using as decorations. If it’s dry corn, people can see right through the maze and it isn’t nearly as challenging or enjoyable as walking in a thick wall of green where you can’t see what’s coming next.
How do you get the lines so straight?
We use GPS guided tractors so our rows of corn are extremely straight and if seen from above our planting pattern would mimic a piece of graphing paper. This grid pattern is the most important part of the entire design process and acts as a road map for when it’s time to cut the maze.
When do you start the process of cutting the maze?
Corn germinates and sprouts very rapidly. After a good rain we typically see sprouts within a week. Once the plant becomes established it can grow up to eight inches a day. The cutting process is the next step and takes place when the corn is around a foot tall. It is a lot easier when the corn is only a foot tall versus 6-8 feet.
How do you cut the corn?
I say “cut” but what we really do is walk around the field with five-gallon backpack sprayers and spray the corn with a herbicide that kills plants the width of our trails. Essentially the backpack sprayers become like a big paint brush for us to use on a very large canvas.
How do you know where to spray?
This is where the very important grid pattern created by our planting technique comes into play. We use the grid as our road map to cut the maze. We use flags and paint to mark where we have been and count squares to know our location in the field. After the maze is cut, we once again sit, wait, and pray for more rain.
How do you design the maze?
We draw the maze out on a computer program that takes the size of our field into consideration and also the grid pattern we created while planting the field.
How do you keep the pattern?
The grid is really the key for how the maze is so clean and accurate.
What inspires the designs?
Pop’s, 66 highway.
How big is the maze?
Do you still harvest the corn after the season?
Yes, we harvest the corn, and use it to feed the wildlife on our farm up the road all winter.
Has anyone ever gotten lost in the maze?
Multiple groups got lost in the maze last fall, and they all happened to be right at closing time when it was getting dark. My staff and I know the maze really well so we can track down lost visitors relatively quickly.
How many people participate in the maze every year?
Last year we had around 6,500 visitors come out to the maze.
How tall does the corn get?
Seven to eight feet.
When do you start on the next year’s maze?
We start planning for next year’s maze shortly after this season is over.
What other activities do you offer?
There will be live fishing, bounce houses, face painting, a petting zoo, a paintball shoot, a golf challenge, hay fort, pumpkin patch, gem mining pit, corn hole, tether ball, food trucks and more!
How much does it cost to attend?
Adults and children are $10, seniors citizens are $8, and children under 3 are free.
The Arcadia Corn Maze is located east of Edmond on Hwy 66, right next to Pops and is open through October 31st.