2020 marks the 20th year that Alan and Angie Treinen have turned their family farm in to an “agritainment” destination for people from all over the state. While COVID-19 has forced them to modify how they go about things, the corn maze and other attractions are open for safe, outdoor fun.
From Pumpkins to Corn and More
In 1991, Alan Treinen decided to use part of his farmland to let some people have fun. That was the first pumpkin patch. Over the years, events and activities were added. Hay rides in a horse-drawn wagon, apple tossing, bonfires, a pumpkin catapult, and now extended hiking trails through the wooded hills behind the farm.
In 2001, the Treinens built their first corn maze–a horse-drawn wagon representing the hard-working draft horses that had become synonymous with Alan and his farm. Over the years, Angie–Alan’s wife–has designed mazes that are complex, curious, educational, and whimsical.
Big Inspiration from Little Wonders
Throughout the year, Angie gathers ideas, researches information, and sketches out ideas for the maze. This year, looking for inspiration in themes of strength and resilience, Angie settled on the idea of tardigrades–more commonly known as “water bears”.
These tiny creatures (.02 inches) are one of a group known as “extremophiles”–creatures that can survive in the most extreme environments. They can live without water, in temperatures down to -300F, in pressures of up to 6,000 atmospheres, in areas of intense radiation, and even in outer space (for very short periods)1Not to mention living on the edge of the Quantum Realm in Marvel’s Ant-Man & The Wasp movie..
Angie’s final design features a giant water bear floating amid moss, flowers, and other vegetation.
Maps, Math, and Middle Schoolers
While Angie does the design work, the mechanics of creating the physical maze fall on Alan and his crew. The 15-acre field to the west of the farm is planted in a criss-cross pattern, creating a giant “graph paper” field, which matches the graph paper Angie does the design work on. The planting is done later in the season than sweet corn, and utilizes a long-standing variety which remains green and full long into the fall–or longer.
Once the corn is planted, they have 3-10 days–depending on how fast the corn grows–to polish the design and get ready to start the layout process. Using flags and stakes, Alan lays out a major and minor grid that act as reference points. The major grid is 60-foot squares–a number that shows up frequently when they make mistakes in the layout.
Alan’s crew is made up of local school kids–some as young as 8th graders. Each crew member is given a section of the map, a can of spray paint, and a handful of surveyor’s flags. Matching the marks on their maps to the posts and flags in the field, they start laying out their section.
Alan has them work individual rather than in teams. Not only does this cover more ground faster (it takes about 150 man-hours to lay out a maze), but it helps to catch mistakes. If two paths are supposed to meet and their off by a few inches, that’s to be expected. If they’re off by a lot (quite often the 60 feet mentioned above), it’s very apparent, making it easy to go back and find out where the mistake was made. Though the kids are usually hesitant to take on that responsibility at first, they quickly gain the skills and confidence they need. It also helps when they see the boss mess up.
Every year, somebody’s going to screw up something. And I will, too. And if I do, you notice it pretty quick. Usually you’re 60 feet off. And when I do, and if there’s new kids there…. [I shout] “Okay everybody! Look where I am! I just screwed up! I’ve been doing it 20 years and I screwed up!”
The Challenge of 2020
2020 has, of course, brought new challenges to the Treinen Farm. With the need for social distancing, many of the activities from previous years are being modified or just eliminated for this summer. The maze, of course, is still open, as is the pumpkin patch. Other group events such as bonfires are being evaluated to see how–or if–they can be made to fit the new normal.
The Treinens have made 3 major changes to help keep their farm both fun and safe. The first of those has been to open up a month early and extend their hours. This gives people more time to enjoy the space, rather than crowding in on the weekends.
Secondly, they’ve opened up the hill behind the farm. The hill is wooded around the edge, and crowned with a meadow–both of which have small hiking paths winding through them. This allows people more room to spread out and, plenty of new spaces for kids (of all ages) to explore.
Finally, they’ve implemented an advance-ticketing system on their website. This system allows visitors to see how many tickets have been sold throughout the day, and plan their trip during the lower-attendance times if they want.
And they are, of course, willing to work with groups to see to it they have the best experience within the constraints of safety.
The Treinen Farm, located on Hwy 60 between Lodi and Prairie du Sac, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm.
A Lodi native, Blaze attended the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where he graduated with a degree in theatre technology & design. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world–including a 6-year stint in China. He has been a teacher, a writer, a designer, and is the founder of the Redleaf Consulting Group.
|↑1||Not to mention living on the edge of the Quantum Realm in Marvel’s Ant-Man & The Wasp movie.|