September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Lost in the corn

Tews family creates corn maze on dairy farm
The Tewses estimate the cow-shaped maze to contain about three miles of paths, with each hoof about 30 feet wide. On average, most people finish walking the maze in about an hour. (photo submitted)
The Tewses estimate the cow-shaped maze to contain about three miles of paths, with each hoof about 30 feet wide. On average, most people finish walking the maze in about an hour. (photo submitted)

By Krista M. Sheehan- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

WINONA, Minn. - Although the Tewses have 150 Holsteins on their farm, the Winona County family is probably known better for a cow that will never give a drop of milk and has hooves nearly 30 feet wide.

Ted and Linda Tews have created a corn maze in the shape of a cow on the 550-acre dairy farm they manage with their oldest son, Isaiah, his wife, Breanne, and another son, Joseph. Ted and Linda have six other children who work off-the-farm.

Although this is the first year the Tewses have had a corn maze, it's always been a thought in the back of their minds.

"We thought it would be fun to do and we thought we could have church picnics and other afternoon gatherings here with the maze," Ted said.

For the past few years the Tewses have planted their corn heavier with the intention of making a maze; however, it wasn't until this year the Tewses followed through on their idea.

"We had a family meeting with all the kids and their spouses and we asked what they thought. They said, 'Yeah, let's do it,'" Linda said. "The whole family is helping."

They enlisted the help of the Maize Company from Utah, which specializes in corn mazes with over 200 farms in the U.S. and farms in four foreign countries.

"That helped tremendously," Linda said. "It saved us a lot of mistakes and learning curves ... but we're still learning."

Initially the family wanted to use a Noah's Ark design or an eagle with the American flag, but while looking at choices online they made the switch to a cow with the saying, 'udderly corny.'

"It fits the area of southeast Minnesota and Wisconsin," Ted said. "There's a lot of corn and a lot of dairy."

The Tewses also had to be selective about the location of the maze. It couldn't be too hilly or have any ravines going through, which included most of their fields. After finding their seven-acre parcel for the maze, the Tews family planted the corn heavier and in both directions to make the maze thicker. In order to keep the corn green as long as possible, the Tewses planted the field last.

They flagged out the design, adding in their own changes with their sponsors Winona Radio and Pioneer Seed, and started cutting out the design when the corn had almost reached a foot tall. Half of the maze paths were created by hoeing out the corn stalks by hand. Mowing took care of the other half.

"Hoeing was more work, but it worked better. We didn't have to go back and re-mow where some corn grew back," Linda said about the paths, some of which had to be mowed up to three times.

Ted and Linda estimate the maze to have about two to three miles of paths. Mapping and cutting the maze took about 140-hours with as many as eight people working at one time during those hours.

"Cutting it out was the easiest part," Linda said. "We thought we were done because we finally had a maze, but we were just beginning."

The family had a full schedule regularly "shwacking" corn leaves that hang in the way of the paths along with other preparatory arrangements: publicity, food, permits for the food, lining up workers, getting insurance, finding fence posts, arranging tables and chairs, lining up other activities and setting prices among many other tasks.

"It's on my mind almost every waking moment except while working at the Post Office," Linda said.

"It has consumed our summer," Ted said.

Although both agree the maze has been a lot of work, they said it's time spent with family and friends.

"It's a lot of fun conversation," Linda said. "It may be work, but we're all working together. It's a lot of team work and we have fun together."

The family is able to tell stories about getting lost in their own maze while working together.

"I was mowing the maze and I forgot to bring my map. I was lost for 30 to 40 minutes," Linda said. "I went round and round for quite a while."

They've also liked making the visit to their farm enjoyable for others no matter what the age. The Tewses maze has provided entertainment for babies in strollers and grandparents for their 85th birthday.

"There's something in their voice where you just know they're having fun," Linda said. "There's a lightness even in frustration. That's cool."

Before entering the maze, people receive a small map with 12 points to find. A smaller maze within the bigger maze includes the first four of the 12 points. At each checkpoint, there is a different shaped paper puncher to mark their map. The fastest group took 45 minutes to complete the maze while the slowest came in at three and a half hours. On average, most people finish in about an hour to an hour and a half.

The Tews family also opens their farm for visitors and has additional activities in their yard including a petting zoo, sand pile, corn box, hay rides, pig and duck races, and a mini maze.

The Tews corn maze is open every weekend through Nov. 1, then they will plan to combine as much of the field as they can. Although the maze has been a lot of work, the Tews family plans to have mazes in the future.

"It should be easier the next time around," Ted said. "This has been fun for us. There are a lot of neat people to talk with. All the people that come seem to have a good time."

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