Amazin’ Acres features interesting corn mazes and much more
Thursday, Jun 30, 2011
This is an aerial view of the 2009 corn maze, which marked the 10th anniversary of the company.
There is no doubt family farming has changed over the years — much of it for the worse.
Such was the case for Jimmy and Karen McCulley of White County. Jimmy is a third generation farmer who took over the milk cow operation after the death of his father. They also grew tobacco at the farm.
But as time went by, those two commodities went in the wrong direction. Tobacco’s fate is obvious. For milk, it got to the point where they just couldn’t produce the quantities required by the larger companies.
They needed a new direction.
“We were looking for a different form of income,” said Jimmy.
“We began looking outside the box,” said Karen.
At one point, they attended a meeting in Gatlinburg where they learned about the first-ever corn maze in the state of Tennessee.
On the way back from that meeting, Karen took a McDonald’s napkin and drew out her first rough sketch of a corn maze.
Amazin’ Acres was born.
In 2000, the couple launched the project, which is located about three miles off Highway 111 near the regional airport. When that happened, Jimmy said it was the very first corn maze in Middle Tennessee.
That first year, they did a corn maze and a pumpkin patch. They have added various other activities ever since. They also decided to do strawberries in the spring.
“We had two major learning curves,” said Karen.
So how do you go about designing a corn maze?
“I just plant the corn,” jokes Jimmy.
Karen said she designed the mazes for the first seven years simply by drawing it out.
“It’s scale, you go by scale,” said Karen.
Now, they have a company which designs the mazes each year. They feature two smaller mazes as well as one large maze which takes up six to seven acres of corn. Their two sons have added another maze called the “Haunted Trail,” which features very scary creatures during Halloween.
“That is separate from others,” said Karen, adding smaller children should not go into that maze.
One of the unique aspects of operating a corn maze business is reliance on weather.
“We’ve been doing it so long, we know you don’t know what to expect,” said Karen.
Both also said there are other factors involved in how attendance goes during the season. One, the economy, seems obvious. The other, world events, does not. They said following the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, business was down, apparently because of the mood of the country.
But overall, the couple is pleased with how the business has grown over the years.
“We get people from all over,” said Jimmy. “We have really branched out.” He said they get people from out of state who come just to enjoy the mazes and other activities at Amazin’ Acres.
He also said the advent of social media has helped their business. They have an active website and Facebook page which has close to 800 followers.
In fact, they have used Facebook in an interesting way. Jimmy, the social media expert of the bunch, says they began calling Amazin’ Acres the “real Farmville” and invited people to come to the place. “Three weeks to strawberry pickin’ at the real Farmville,” was one post he put up on Facebook.
He called the response “incredible. It just blows my mind.”
An educational experience
Karen said the primary goal of Amazin’ Acres is education.
“A lot of people grew up on asphalt and concrete and a lot don’t know where their food comes from,” she said.
Jimmy pointed out that at one time, almost everyone either lived on a farm or knew someone who farmed but that has changed over the past couple of generations.
Karen said this gives people from urban environments a “chance to come to the farm and create a lot of memories. We have a friendly atmosphere.”
One of the smaller mazes features agriculture and clues to help participants. An example would be, “I produce milk. I eat grass. What am I?” If they respond correctly with “cow,” an arrow will point them in the right direction.
“We have a lot of people who come every year,” said Jimmy.
One indication of the popularity, he said, is “a lot of moms and dads have to drag them off the farm because they don’t want to go. That tells you something.”
An early lesson
A lesson the couple learned early on is to not open too early in the season. That first year, they opened in August. After much work getting everything ready, nobody came. Karen was devastated. However, Jimmy said once the weather cooled off, the first year was a big success.
Now they open in mid-September and go until early November.
The couple has also added many other activities since those first years. One of the most popular is pig racing. Each year he has three pigs and persons can choose a pig and then they race from a chute. Karen said young and old alike enjoy this feature.
They have also developed a straw maze inside the barn which ends with a slide. The younger people really enjoy this, she said.
Some of the other features include hayrides, Dixie the Milk Cow, picnic facilities, straw crawl, corn box, goat walk and the human hamster wheel. There’s also the popular Old McCulley farm animal petting feature.
Jimmy says it’s not easy getting all of this ready. “It’s more work than you would think.”
Quips Karen: “I’m the brains, he’s the worker!”
Part of that work includes running the normal farming operation everyday. They still raise crops on the 210 acres. They grow and cut a lot of hay and this year are doing 30 acres of soybeans. They also grow strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupe and green beans.
Karen said even before they developed the maze concept, the entire family was active in 4-H and agriculture.
“We like to entertain on the farm,” she said. “I grew up on a farm.”
In fact, her family grew up on the adjoining farm to Jimmy’s family. She can see her mother’s kitchen window from her house, though “it is a long way off.”
Says Jimmy: “I didn’t have to go far to get a wife!”
As for the future, both said adding new and different attractions to Amazin’ Acres is the goal in order to “make it a destination” for travelers.
She stressed they will continue to have educational activities and focus on teaching people the importance of agriculture as well as “green” practices to help the environment.For more information, you can visit www.amazinacres.com or call 931-761-2971. Amazin’ Acres is located at 2857 Old Kentucky Rd. North, Sparta.