Lettuce entertain you

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

P Proponents of agritainment point out that it can help keep land in farm-family ownership by growing "green" of another kind.

When business gets tough for the core enterprise, smart businessmen diversify or seek new business models. With the advent of "agritainment," a term coined by farmers who are experimenting with various entertainment options on their farmland, a new kind of economic diversity is being seen in the countryside. Particularly popular are corn mazes, but other attractions include paintball battlefields and motorcross tracks.

Tom Reidy, a farmer in north-central Ohio, expects to bring in up to $30,000 on a cornfield maze that charges $6 for adults, $3 for children. It costs him $7,000 to maintain. That $23,000 a year cash flow dwarfs the roughly $2,400 he earned growing corn and soybeans on the same plot of land in years past.

Closer to home, the Beggs family will open a 12-acre corn maze on Route U west of Blodgett, Mo. It's in the shape of Bronco Billy and will be the largest of the 25 designs Maize Quest USA has created. This new enterprise is in addition to school field trips and other visits to the Beggs Pumpkin Patch, for which they charge a fee.

Proponents of the trend, which has been accelerating in the past five years, point out that agritainment helps keep land in farm-family ownership. Not a bad bit of enterprise, we say, if it helps strengthen the family farm.

Now, with Halloween just around the corner, anyone up for an on-site, dramatic re-enactment of Stephen King's Children of the Corn?

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