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Field of Dreams

Growing corn is a-mazing
      A staple of the dinner table has now become a staple of fall festivals. 
      At farms, garden centers and plant nurseries around the nation, the corn field is more about getting lost and having fun and less for picking and eating. Designs get more complicated by the year.
      The corn maze at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian has become known for its inspired and timely designs. Every year the staff brainstorms design ideas for the corn maze with the help of a graphic artist. “This year, the idea came quite quickly and easily,” says owner Stacy Greenstreet.
      For 2018, guests at the Greenstreet Fall Festival will find themselves wandering around a maze of the Stanley Cup and the logo of the Washington Capitals to celebrate the hockey team’s big win this year. The design got the attention of the Caps and NHL.com, which tweeted their gratitude.
       While the design came easily, the maze takes a little longer to create.
      “We work with a local farmer who plants the corn in two directions so the maze walls are nice and thick,” Greenstreet says. “Then we pray for rain, just like in the old days.”
       Clearly those prayers were heard, as the corn grew. Then help arrived to turn six acres of corn into family fun.
       The Maize Company in Spanish Fork, Utah, takes Greenstreet’s computer design and maze-ifies it. Calling themselves the world’s largest corn maze design and consulting company, the Maize travels all over the nation turning customers’ ideas into living corn mazes in a matter of hours. 
       The design is first turned into blueprints. Then cutters travel to the site and spray-paint the lines of the six-foot-wide paths. To cut the corn, they follow the lines.
      “We usually cut the Greenstreet maze around the end of July or beginning of August,” says Dusty Rigby, lead maze cutter with The Maize Company. “Once we hear it’s been planted, we wait about two weeks from planting to go and cut. When the corn is anywhere from eight to 18 inches tall, that’s the right time to cut.”
      After that, it’s just a matter of keeping the pathways clear.
      Rigby cautions that the corn is not suitable for sampling. “This corn is usually what we call a silage corn, grown for its stalks and leaves, unlike a sweet corn grown for human consumption.”
      “It’s truly old fashioned farming blended with technology,” says Greenstreet. It’s also completely on trend, as garden centers, nurseries and farms work to promote agricultural tourism.
      If getting lost in a corn maze sounds nerve-wracking, never fear. Most people can find their way out just by wandering around. Some use maps or aerial images to find their way out quickly. Every year, though, there are some navigationally challenged guests who call 911 because they have gotten lost inside a corn maze.
      The All Caps maze opens Saturday, Sept. 22. Greenstreet Garden’s fall festival kicks off Friday, Sept. 21 with an outdoor movie. Blankets and chairs are welcome, as are donations for the SCAN food pantry. Concessions will be sold.