SYRACUSE — From a bird’s eye view high above the 250-acre Black Island Farms, a unique pattern is visible in the rows of corn.
Thrill-seekers of all ages may navigate the corn maze’s 5 miles of twists and turns beginning Friday as part of the farm’s annual Harvest Festival.
The maze is designed in the shape of the farm’s logo, as well as the logo for United Way. Catholic Community Services and United Way will benefit from canned food donations that visitors bring to receive $1 off their admission price.
The maze, pumpkin hayrides and haunted Nightmare Acres will be open daily through Halloween. Helicopter rides to view the maze from the air will be available on weekends.
“This is kind of a special place, I think,” said Charlie Black, who has owned the active vegetable farm for 52 years.
His daughter and son-in-law, Brandon and Dorathy Law, are the resident operators of the farm.
The farm now involves its fourth generation of family members in farming and “agri-tainment.”
Black said he has had to diversify over the years in order to continue farming.
“(The Harvest Festival) has developed into a good thing, and it keeps us in farming. It would be tough to farm without it,” Black said.
Dorathy Law said her husband and son design the pattern for the maze in the early spring when the corn is only a few inches high.
The corn is cross planted to create a grid, rather than in traditional parallel rows. They then use a computer program to design a maze to fit the 28-acre corn field.
“When you’re in elementary school, and when you have a picture and you are transferring it to a grid, it’s essentially what you do,” Law said.
The design is then mapped out on the field with flags creating lines. The men walk these lines with a backpack sprayer to kill the surrounding corn.
Months later when the corn is mature, they are left with an entertaining corn maze.
Law said the corn maze and corresponding festival usually attract about 60,000 visitors during the six weeks they are open.
School groups, church groups and families visit the farm to participate in the farmer’s market, hayrides, games and activities the festival offers.
“It’s a fun thing. Generations come here. Grandparents love it. The young kids run around. It’s fun to see the traditions starting with families. Every year people come back … I don’t want that to go away. It is hard work, but we love it,” Law said.
The farm also tries to educate visitors as to the source of their food and the importance of farms in our communities.
“We are still encouraging the public and our fans and anyone out there to support farmland and open space. Once you take away farmland, you can never bring it back. You can go build your house someplace else. I can’t move my farm. It’s been in our family for 50 years. It’s what we know,” Law said.
Law and Black both voiced concerns over the possible West Davis Corridor and its impact on their farm.
Black said two of the proposed routes would take land from his farm to build the road.
“What we have out here is special,” Law said. “I do believe that growth and farmland and open space can co-exist. We just all have to work together to make it work.”
For more information about visiting the farm, including operating hours and admission costs, visit www.BlackIslandFarms.com.