On a golden, fall afternoon in Windsor, Connecticut’s Brown’s Harvest, a ten-foot tall, five-acre long corn maze is awash in sunlight beneath a wispy blue sky. Across from the corn maze is the rest of the property, which includes a large shed filled with different local foods and artwork from local businesses. Mums and pumpkins fill the green grass, along with a second corn maze for children that stretches on the other side of the shed. Kids run and giggle throughout the farm, climbing on bales of hay and picking out pumpkins. Crickets are chirping in the distance, and there is a slightly cool breeze blowing on this crisp day. Brown’s has been in business for forty-two years. It’s famous for creating an atmosphere that embodies fall traditions for families and guests.
“The maze is five acres,” says farm manager Kathi Martin, wearing a casual striped pull-over and jeans. She stands at the maze entrance. “The map has a tornado, wind and lightning. We’re doing the weather theme to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the tornado that went through the towns of Windsor and Windsor Locks on October 3, 1979.” This tornado was historic, Wizard of Oz-type damage. Brown’s alone lost six tobacco sheds, while the New England Air Museum down the road lost twenty different vintage aircrafts in the storm.
Ironically, Kathi herself is not fond of mazes, but she greatly respects the work that goes into them. “We work with a maze person, we tell them ‘this is what we want to do, this is our theme’ and they will show us a few designs and we choose. Then, they do it up on a grid, get it ready for GPS, and then someone comes and cuts it.” The tractor uses a GPS-like system to map out and cut the patterns properly. The entire process from planting the corn to having a full-blown corn maze is about three to four months long. “We plant at the end of June, it is planted in crossing rows to make for a thicker maze, and about three months later they come and cut it with a small tractor. It only took him two hours to cut the whole thing.”
Inside the maze is a trivia game with questions about the maze, the history of mazes, and the current maze theme. “It’s either a rub-and-reveal station or they answer the questions. If guests find all the stations we ask them for their contact info and we do a weekly drawing,” says Kathi. Two weekends in the fall, guests can come after six o’clock with their own flashlights to do the maze in the dark. “We’ve got a lot of young families at 6:30 and then the college kids come later.”
There is also a smaller corn maze for younger children. The map and size is much less intimidating, along with the happy pumpkin mouth entrance to the maze. However, the corn for the children’s maze grew much taller than usual. “The corn this year is higher than the kids are used to. They’re used to about six feet but this year it’s ten feet tall,” Kathi explains. Tori of Enfield, Connecticut comes to Brown’s often with her five children in the fall, “We come every year, the maze is the only reason we come. It’s a good size because the kids get tired.”
Another attraction of Brown’s is a hayride. The ride is about fifteen minutes long, and the route goes around the farm and through the woods. Similar to the maze, each year the decorations for the hayride have a cohesive theme, usually something fun and traditional rather than scary, a nod to the large number of families with young children who visit the farm each autumn. Kathi smiles. “I have to say our hayride is awesome.”
Kathi walks past the pumpkins and mums, gesturing towards different attractions at the farm. Sculptures made of twisted and formed vines are scattered across the farm, in the shapes of trees, archways and a crescent moon.
“We have a resident artist and he’s creating different things in the woods so we’re calling it our ‘enchanted forest.’ He finds vines along the riverbanks, he recycles machinery we no longer use and creates different things.” This artist, Roland Gregoire, also created the vine sculptures that are dispersed throughout Brown’s. Inside a large shed, these sculptures sit, along with many other foods and crafts from local businesses. Brown’s supports small, independent businesses, much like their own. Brown’s has begun to buy land for farm preservation purposes. “Any support we can get can help,” Kathi says.
Connecticut residents come to the forty-two-year-old farm for a heavy dose of autumn nostalgia, creating fall traditions with friends and family. Kathi walks into the late afternoon autumn sunlight, the maze glowing, waiting for the next guest to arrive at Brown’s Harvest.
Photo Credit for Headline Image: Rachel Cayon for Blue Muse Magazine.
Rachel Cayon is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine.