Crop Art

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY

Invite a crop artist to turn one of your cornfields into a work of art. It will be the talk of the country-side.

The crop art displayed by the fourteen Dutchess County, New York, farmers attracted thousands of visitors, including 1,000 school children, a month. Additional people came to their summer on-farm educational programs intended to strengthen urban ties to agriculture. Many farms that encourage school tours aim to build goodwill and long-term customers, rather than charging for the tours.

Crop art runs the gamut from the fanciful sculptures of Dutchess County to floral designs, from designs mowed in a field to Halloween pumpkin displays like those seen on the Rohrbach Farm near St. Louis. Most crop art—at least in the Midwest—consists of designs cut into standing grain crops in a field, or alternatively, designs created by different colored plantings. Such crop art is best viewed from the air or from a raised structure. There have also been proposals for creating mound-like structures with Native American designs outlined in edible native plants, and there are agricultural mazes—which provide something to do as well as see. There are a number of full-time professional crop artists advertising on the Worldwide Web, as well as maze designers and franchisers. (Mazes are discussed more fully below.)

Madera County, California, farmer Darren Schmall originated the "Pizza Farm" concept, a subspecies of crop art. One field is devoted to a circular arrangement of crops and animals. Pie-shaped wedges of pepper plants, wheat, tomatoes, and so on represent pizza ingredients. Several sections house hogs and cattle (representing sausage and cheese). This is reportedly one of the fastest-growing types of crop art. Children use a coin-operated feed pellet machine to feed the animals.

Visitors expect to pay admission to farm attractions—even to view (and photograph) crop art. Maze operators generally charge admission. Joel Salatin advises farmers to build a haybale observation deck with a view of the maze, so that grandparents can take photos. Sales of food, beverages, and photographic supplies can take place here. Charge for some things, and give something away free. "While no one is certain that providing some activities free of charge improves the net return to the farm, they undoubtedly increase the farmer's gross receipts through increased customer traffic."

Corn Mazes- Here is a maze that charges $8 per visitor.