Gross Farms in Lee County has joined N.C. Cooperative Extension’s centennial celebration this fall. Guests to their agritourism operation can make their way through a 15-acre corn maze cut in the shape of Extension’s centennial logo.
Farm owner John and Tina Gross anticipate that about 10,000 visitors will come to the farm during the fall, when the corn maze and pumpkin patch are popular attractions. When the Grosses heard about Extension’s centennial, they wanted to honor the occasion by using the centennial logo in the farm’s corn maze.
Gross Farms is a North Carolina Century Farm, having been in John’s family for more than 100 years. The farm raises mainly row crops, but agritourism has been a part of the farm for more than 14 years.
In 2000, like many operations, Gross Farms was trying to diversify by introducing a we-pick, you-pick strawberry patch. The strawberries were successful, so in 2002 the Gross family decided to offer a corn maze and pumpkin patch (we-pick/you-pick) for the first time.
This year, while pondering what shape the corn maze should take, John and Tina learned about Extension’s centennial and asked Lee County Extension Director Susan Condlin about incorporating the centennial logo. Gross said she and her husband value the service Gross Farms receives from Condlin and other Lee County Extension professionals like Bill Stone and Kim Tungate.
The Grosses consulted the firm that cuts the corn maze, Maze Play, which was able to place the logo design in the corn field. Mazes like the one at Gross Farms are cut using tractors with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.
“We wanted to raise awareness about Cooperative Extension,” Gross said. “A lot of non-farm people don’t realize that Extension is here for them too.”
To help bring Extension’s message to corn maze visitors, Condlin said that Lee County’s Extension staff will offer an information booth at the site several Saturdays during the corn maze season. Look for Extension on October 4, 11, 18, and 25, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Gross, who has four children, believes it is important to introduce youth to agriculture through real farm experiences in order to grow the next generation of farmers. “To introduce kids to agriculture, you have to get them involved. They have to see it and touch it,” she said.
“If children have no hands-on experience with agriculture, they won’t even know that ag could be a passion for them.”
John and Tina Gross’s daughter MaKayla Gross is planning to study agriculture business management through the STEAM program of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This fall, she is attending classes at the local community college.
In addition to the corn maze, Gross Farms agritourism activities include a pumpkin patch, play area and picnic area, a “jumping pillow,” tunnel slide and hayride. Dates of operation this fall are Sept. 20-Nov. 2. For information on the farm, visit www.grossfarms.com.