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As the cooler temperatures start to hit and the leaves start to change, we all know that fall is in the air. For some of us, this time of year may signify hay rides, pumpkins and hot apple cider. For some, it may mean it is time to find the closest corn maze for an annual corn maze adventure. If there is one certain way to adventure this fall, the corn maze would be it.
Corn mazes are like giant puzzles that you can walk through, complete with loops and dead ends to get you lost. From an aerial perspective, most corn mazes create an intricate design—something that, from down below, where the corn is much taller than you or I, one would never even know. Corn mazes can be accomplished by anyone with a sense of adventure. Both children and adults will love the experience of navigating, getting lost and finding their way again within the tall corridors of corn.
Nestled within the scenic terrain of northeastern Pennsylvania, in the small rural town of Herrick Center, you can find the Zembrzycki Dairy Farm, home to the Zembrzycki Corn Maze. The corn maze was started in 2009 by Brian Zembrzycki and his fiancée, Melissa, in an attempt to try something new and different for the family farm. “We had the land and grow the corn for the cows, so we figured we would try a corn maze one year, and it was a big hit,” said Melissa.
When it comes to the behind-the-scenes of making a corn maze, things get interesting. The very beginning of it all happens in the spring, when the corn is planted. Your average corn field gets planted in rows, either horizontally or vertically; however, when planting a corn maze, the corn gets planted both ways. This method takes a lot more time and effort, but in the end, it prevents you from being able to see through the rows within the corn maze.
Once the corn is about one foot tall, it is time for the Zembrzycki family to call out a corn maze professional to help create their maze. Professionals use state-of-the-art technology to geo-reference the cornfield and get the lay of the land. The image is integrated into a GPS system that acts much like a road map for the professional, who uses a lawnmower to create the maze. As the foot-tall corn gets mowed, it falls to the ground, creating a path that will mulch and break down into the dirt path that will wind throughout the corn maze. Integrity and accuracy, combined with highly advanced corn field cutting techniques is what brings the corn maze together, providing a one-of-a-kind seasonal adventure.
At the entrance to this year’s seven-acre corn maze at the Zembrzycki Dairy Farm, two giant, black Halloween spiders welcome you in to your adventure. Once you are about 20 feet into the maze, the corn will be towering above you, leaving you to concentrate fully on the aerial photo of the maze in order to know where you are and which way to go. If you don’t, you will find yourself lost (and confused) very quickly! Within the maze, there are 12 checkpoints that are mysteriously hidden in various nooks and crannies. At each checkpoint, you get to solve a riddle and fill in the blanks on the game piece you receive upon entering the maze. The overall goal is to find all the check points and solve all the riddles. And if you really want a challenge, you can do the maze in the dark, with a flashlight, every Friday night from 6 to 10 p.m.
Since the Zembrzycki’s initial corn maze, there have been numerous additions to their fall-themed fun on the farm. These include:
• Hay Bale Tower: The hay bale tower is fun for people of all ages to jump and climb. It makes for nice photo opportunities as well.
• Sling Shots: The sling shots are the newest addition. Here, you can test your skills and see how far you can launch a gourd at one of the four targets set up in the pasture.
• Pick-Your-Own Pumpkin Patch: Here, a two-acre pumpkin patch is filled with bright orange pumpkins just waiting to be picked. Or you can simply choose from one of the pre-picked pumpkins in one of the wagons. (Prices will vary depending on the size of the pumpkin.)
• Snack Shack: The Snack Shack has food and drinks available for purchase.
• Petting Zoo: The petting zoo consists of some of the farm’s friendly animals. It is a great opportunity for those who don’t get to see farm animals up close too often.
• Campfires: Each campfire ring has its own large picnic table. These spaces are a great way for friends and family to get together and roast some marshmallows, cook some hotdogs and just simply enjoy the fresh country air and scenery. Large groups and parties are most welcome. (It is highly recommended that you reserve your campfire early so that you are guaranteed a spot on busy weekends.)
In addition to these fall themed activities, there is the Zembrzycki Farm Stand, which is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from mid-July through late October. The farmstand offers a wide variety of seasonal produce, along with baked goods, flower bouquets, strawberry rhubarb jam and sunflowers. Currently, their fall specialty offerings include baby yams, corn stalks, gourds, hay bales, Indian corn, pumpkins and winter squash.
The Zembrzycki Dairy Farm is family owned and operated by Bernie and Linda Zembrzycki, along with their four children, Amanda, Brian, Bernard John and Katelyn; and with Bernie’s mother, Rose Zembrzycki. Each family member plays a part in working together to keep their farm up and running in order to provide for themselves and their community. This is the kind of story that leaves one feeling inspired by a family whose close bonds keep them and their farm and business going and growing—working together and coming up with new ideas to try each year. It is places like the Zembrzycki Corn Maze that makes our local community that much stronger.