FAIRMONT — Eustice Callahan Jr. and his wife, Deidre, are using a maze to demonstrate their support for volunteer firefighters..
When thinking of a shape for this year’s corn maze, which the couple opens each fall at their business called Cukabury Farms, Callahan quickly thought of a fire truck. The idea came in the wake of the bad publicity Fairmont and Orrum fire departments received after news broke of volunteers intentionally starting fires.
“It put a bad persona on local fire departments,” Callahan said. “I just thought that it would be a great thing for us to just commemorate what they do and thank them.”
To implement this plan, they recruited corn maze expert and retired Cooperative Extension agent, Dwayne Batten. Batten has been their go-to man for the past three years. He has nearly a decade of experience designing mazes and a love for agriculture.
“He designs it and cuts it,” Callahan said.
Last year’s maze theme was scarecrows and pumpkins.
Callahan planted the corn for this year’s maze on July 8, noticeably later than other farmers in the county because he grows corn solely for the maze.
“We don’t care about the ears of corn. We don’t care about anything but just making the corn a hideaway for them to walk,” Callahan said. “That’s all we do.”
The design this year was copied from the antique fire trucks that Callahan collects and displays at the farm.
“I know Junior has several fire trucks on his farm, so I told him ‘Send me a picture of your fire trucks,’” Batten said.
Batten used the trucks as a blueprint when drawing his initial design. He starts his design off old-school, using one-quarter inch grid paper, Batten said. Each grid represents 25 feet. He then draws the design on the grid, where it goes through three different computer processor programs before it’s placed on a flash drive.
“That’s several hours of working in the office,” Batten said.
To cut the design into the field, Batten uses a computerized system made by Farm Works, an agriculture technology software company, that he attaches to his mower. He inserts the grid into the system for him to view while cutting. The computer has a built-in Global Positioning System.
“I’m actually following the line and it changes my line from gray color to red color so I know what I cut,” Batten said.
When he finishes the initial cut, Batten uses a drone to get an aerial view of his work to correct errors or make changes. The cutting process generally takes Batten two days to complete.
He finished the fire truck maze in a day and half, Callahan said.
When designing the maze, Batten has family in mind. This mindset is shared by Callahan and his wife.
“We cater to the children. So many of you corn mazes cater to adults and young people,” Callahan said.
It generally takes a participant 20 minutes to get through the maze, which usually opens in late September or early October each year. Callahan said that a trick to getting through the maze quicker is looking at which paths have the most weeds and growth.
“That means no one is walking on them,” he said.
Surprisingly, there hasn’t been anyone that needed rescuing.
“We try to make sure folks go in with their people,” Callahan said.
Callahan said the field has only been cut once. They plan to go back over Batten’s design and get the road packed down for people to walk through.
Callahan’s farm sits on 52 acres of land, with 10 acres devoted to the corn field, two for a kids maze and eight for the larger maze. The farm is relatively young, having just opened it’s doors three years ago. It was born of a collaborative love for antiques and the simple country life. He said that he has four brothers that volunteers and hopes the field will pay tribute to their hard work and dedication.
“I’ve never been on a fire department, but I’ve always appreciated what a volunteer firefighter does,” Callahan said. “They sacrifice family. They sacrifice money. They sacrifice time. We can’t do without them.”
This fall the farm will be hosting various events celebrating fire departments. The farm is located at 107 Pleasant View Church Road in Fairmont.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.