“Give one last corn hug!” called Kate Howlett as her son Matthew splashed around in a sand box filled entirely with dried corn kernels.
Behind the Howletts, a sea of shiny green cornstalks reached toward the sweltering sun. A yawing opening in the otherwise impenetrable wall of corn showed a winding dirt path to somewhere unseen.
The Howletts, who had moments before emerged from that very corn, marched up a grassy bank toward a hayride that would return them to their car and pick up other families eagerly waiting to solve the Greenstreet Gardens’ maze for themselves.
Greenstreet Gardens is just one of several farms and greenhouse complexes in the county inviting families to embark down a path amid 10-foot cornstalks and try to find their way out. It, along with Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville and Maryland Sunrise Farms in Gambrills, opened a corn maze this past weekend.
The three are part of a growing number of farms across Maryland and the country which have turned to agritourism to reconnect families with the nation’s agrarian roots. The three complexes feature additional activities such as trampolines, petting zoos, pumpkin patches and more in addition to the mazes.
“If the kids are all tried and dirty when they go home, then we’ve done a good job,” said Ray Greenstreet, owner of Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian. The company has been cutting their corn into a family-friendly labyrinth for 12 years
Ally Dinenna, 7, and her mother Jenn Dinenna find their way through the corn maze at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian.
This month, the Anne Arundel County Council passed an agritourism bill, which Greenstreet helped craft as a part of County Executive Steve Schuh’s workgroup. The bill defined agritourism in the county’s zoning code and made activities such as hosting a pumpkin patch or a corn maze a permissible use of farmland in the county.
The corn maze at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian has been carved to honor the Brothers Osborne, a singing duo from South County.
Most Americans are generations removed from farms, Greenstreet said. Fall festivals like the one Greenstreet Gardens hosts provides kids and families with an opportunity to rediscover the places where food and animals come from, while having fun simultaneously, he said.
A humorous sign lets maze walkers know what kind of help they can expect at the corn maze at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian.
Corn, which most growers plant in the summer, proves a convenient medium for a little good-natured mayhem. Greenstreet and Homestead gardens cut their own mazes, while Sunrise hires a company that works with farms nationwide. The Greenstreet maze is a complicated puzzle, shaped like local country-rock duo Brothers Osborne. The Sunrise maze is a tribute to Curious George’s 75th anniversary. The Homestead maze doesn’t form a shape, but the wide cut path is deceivingly tricky, as lengthy turns quickly become dead-ends.
Matthew Howlett, 7, and his mother Kate Howlett reach an exit from the corn maze at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian.
At Greenstreet, a sign at the maze entrance assures visitors a “highly trained” rescue squad will locate and round up at least two-thirds of the weekend’s lost and forgotten. The Howletts completed half the winding trek before finding an alternate route out.