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Crosshill couple tries their hand at corn maze

Many of us have been encouraged by a friend to give something new a try … though not usually on the scale of that undertaken by Murrel and Lori Brubacher. The couple has transformed some 10 acres of their Crosshill farm into a giant corn maze.

For years, Newton-area farmer Ernst Hofer has been creating corn mazes among the largest in North America. On deciding this year to take a break from the practice, he suggested the Brubachers try their hand at the family-friendly fall activity.

Lori Brubacher at the entrance to her family’s 10-acre corn maze on their farm near Crosshill. The maze opens to the public this weekend.

Murrel’s background in agriculture, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit prompted them to look for a new challenge by diversifying from the traditional family farm lifestyle.

“It has always been the reality for farmers that you have to be willing to take a risk and think outside the box if the family farm was going to be profitable,” he said. “We have enjoyed interacting with the public in the past when we operated a chip wagon for local auctioneers. This is just one more fun adventure for our family and hopefully for all who visit us this fall.”

Now created more easily thanks to technology, corn mazes have become a popular outdoor activity for people of all ages. Not only an adventure – time spent roaming, following twisting paths and alleys to dead ends – for the daring and the young at heart, corn mazes also serve an educational purpose. The mazes are destinations for school field trips, giving students an opportunity to come to a farm and learn about the various aspects of agriculture and food. Navigating the maze also serves as a stimulating teaser for the brain, especially for those of us who are directionally challenged.

A fountain of knowledge, Hofer had plenty of advice for the Brubachers and good contact information regarding maze designing. They chose a cornucopia or “horn of plenty” as their first design since Waterloo Region is known for the quality, abundance and variety of foods produced here.

The maze was designed by Damian Bradley of E. Lee Association, a landscape architect who has designed for Hofer’s Ontario Maze in the past. As Bradley walked through the field of foot-high corn with a handheld GPS unit creating the design, Brubacher followed on the riding lawn mower, creating the paths. The routes were then tilled weekly until no new growth sprouted. A map of the maze posted on the Brubachers’ website, www.waterloocornmaze.com, which also provides directions, hours and rates.

The fun seeker can participate in a scavenger hunt, and upon completion can enter his/her name in a monthly draw for “dinner for two” at Anna Mae’s restaurant in nearby Millbank. Each participant must correctly identify farm gate signs from Lobsinger Line hidden within the maze, with names and addresses recorded on lists provided. There are 12 postings, including garden produce, maple syrup, honey, eggs, summer sausage and home baking.

Completing the 10-acre circuit may take more than one pass through the “maze of maize,” and will likely require a full hour to finish. There are three distinct zones in the complete maze – shorter trails are an option. There is a large map available to each wanderer. An exit sign is posted at the farthest point for those who become disoriented and need to exit before finishing the course.

Children, of course, must be supervised at all times to avoid losing a very young child within the maze. For those littlest adventurers, a straw bale mini-maze is available.

Large groups are advised to call ahead to reserve the volleyball set and campfire pit. The maze, which opens this weekend, operates Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (last admittance at 9 p.m.) and Sundays 1-6 p.m. Visits on other days can be made by arrangement.

If you desire the added challenge/adventure of doing the maze in the dark, you must bring your own flashlight.

The Waterloo County Corn Maze is located at 4960 William Hastings Line, Crosshill.

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