By Ike Parrish
Liberty Mills Farm in Somerset boasts the largest corn maze in the United States.
Kent and Evie Woods, the husband-and-wife team who own and operate Liberty Mills Farm, are the engineers behind each year’s intricate maze designs. They created their first corn maze in 2010, which was 25 acres in size. The massive labyrinth seems to grow larger year by year.
“It has grown over the years. We are currently at 34 acres, which is the largest in the country this year,” says Evie Woods.
When entering the maze, it is hard not to be in awe with the sheer size of it. Rows of cornstalks as high as nine feet tall tower above any maze goer. The stalks line the pathways and block any views of possible ways forward. Each chosen footpath multiplies into more pathways, leading to seemingly endless routes to meander through the maze.
Getting lost is a given. But not to worry—staff trek the paths from finish to start to help guide any lost travelers that might need a hint as to where they are on the map or what path to take next.
“I’ve never come back in the morning and still found somebody wandering through the maze,” Kent Woods jokes.
Every year the Woods family brainstorm together with their son and daughter to think up the perfect theme to etch into the corn field. When trying to find inspiration they often look for anniversaries of events in American history. 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, so they went with the theme of ‘One Small Step.’ In 2015 they chose the theme “Curiouser and Curiouser” to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”This year’s theme is “America the Beautiful.”
“This year there’s a lot going on in this country and we still think it’s a beautiful country and we need to remember that, so we came up with America the Beautiful,” Kent Woods says.
Images of iconic American monuments like the Statue of Liberty and U.S. Capitol building are cut into the field along with images representative of rural America such as a barn and a basket of apples. The words “America the Beautiful,” written in cursive, span the diameter atop the field while the Liberty Mills Farm logo is branded in the bottom right corner of the square maze.
The Woods family never set out to make the largest corn maze in the country. They said they simply wanted to create something more challenging than the corn mazes they had visited in years past.
“As our kids got older, we would go to mazes where we’re done in 20 minutes. Now what do we do?” Kent Woods says.
To appease both those seeking a real challenge and those just wanting to go for a leisurely stroll through the corn field, they design each maze with separated paths of varied difficulty which are color-coded on the mini map you receive when purchasing a wristband for entry. Yellow for elementary, red for secondary, blue for bachelor’s and green for master’s.
Each trail has its own added challenge. The red trail has an estimated completion time of 45-60 minutes and features signs along the way with trivia questions. The blue trail has 21 stations where you can find hole punchers to mark the corresponding number on your map which they say might take you two-three hours to find all 21.
The master’s level is a mystery maze which is not shown on the map. If you are wondering how long that might take, “Nobody ever comes out to tell us.” Evie Woods jokes.
A tractor is used to plant the corn in mid-June, everything after that is done by hand. Each year, the design is laid out on grid sheets. When the cornstalks are 6 to 12 inches in height, the design is transferred from the grid sheets to the field using x-y coordinates.
“This year there was four people, and we did it in six hours,” Kent Woods says, “so 24 to 25 staff-hours is typically all it takes. A lot of people are always asking how we do that, and they are amazed.”
The corn maze will close Nov. 11, at which point the combine tractor is brought out to harvest the corn. The harvested corn is then processed into feed for local poultry and beef operations.
In 2020 Liberty Mills Farm received more than 20,000 visitors. On a nice fall day, they can expect easily more than 1,000 visitors.
The maze is what puts them on the map, but locals and tourists also flock to the farm for the various other fall attractions. There is a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, a farm market selling treats like candied apples and homemade ice cream, a food truck, a playground for children and the ever- popular hay wagon rides.
Liberty Mills is open weekdays and Sunday 11 a.m. through 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. through 10 p.m. (the flashlight maze starts at 6 p.m. on Saturdays).