By Gary Brock
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.
A five-year breast cancer survivor, Marcie Hagler said that a portion of the proceeds for this year’s maze, themed “Harvesting a Cure,” will be used to support cancer patients and survivors. She said the targeted proceeds will go to the 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 a variety of charities 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.”
“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 9-acre 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 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, she said.
She said that, due to the design, this year’s maze is one of the more difficult mazes they have done. She said it is basically the same size, but that there is a greater degree of difficulty.
She added that they also have a “mini maze” to the side of the big maze for kids and school groups for 3 to 8 year olds.
“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 cut through more than 300,000 living corn stalks.
She said the maze is designed to be interactive, taking visitors about an hour-and-a-half to get through it, depending upon which game they choose.
“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,” 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, pumpkin painting, farm animals to pet, and an area for campfires that groups of 20 or more can reserve.
APPLE COUNTRY FARM MARKET
Theme 2016: “Harvesting a Cure,” sponsored by JD Equipment Inc.
Address: 2323 U.S. Route 42, Spring Valley, OH 45370
When: Weekends from Sept. 10-Nov. 6
Hours: 5-8 p.m. Friday, 1-9 p.m. Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday
Friday and Saturday: Flashlight Nights in the Maze. Bring your own flashlight.
Tuesday through Friday: Groups of 20 or more are by reservation only. Call for special weekday scheduling and discounts.
Hayrides: By appointment, with a minimum group of 10, beginning Oct. 3. All ages $3.
Admission: Adults $9, children between the ages of 4 and 12 $7, children 3 and under free.
Group discounts: Groups of more than 20 must pre-schedule to receive a discount.