OKLAHOMA farm fields turn to labyrinths

Monday, August 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Visitors to four Oklahoma farms soon will be weaving their way through fields of tall corn and hay cut into mazes.

Four mazes in the state open in two weeks.

Brett Herbst, founder of MAiZE company, said the giant puzzles are part of a growing trend in the Midwest that helps farming families earn money and educate the public about agriculture. He has sites throughout the United States and Canada.

``Our society has grown away from agriculture,'' he said. ``Agriculture was the backbone of America.''

Oklahoma mazes are in Ponca City, Weatherford, Seiling and Madill. Herbst's company helped build the Ponca City and Weatherford puzzles.

Loren Liebscher, who owns the Weatherford site, said the mazes are renewing family farms.

``The family farm is dying, and people don't really realize that,'' he said.

Liebscher's maze is in the shape of a Route 66 logo, covering two and a half miles through corn 9 feet tall. Visitors also will be able to tour the farming operation, which includes sunflowers, peanuts and other crops, Liebscher said.

From the sky, the Ponca City corn field looks like the shape of Oklahoma with a tractor inside it. On the ground, it's a labyrinth of nearly three miles with dead ends and confusing circles.

Beth Carmichael said her husband, Hew, planted the corn in an 11-acre grid in May on their farm west of Ponca City. Herbst's crews came in June to cut the trails.

``We want to get it tall so people can get good and lost out there,'' she said.

Visitors to the maze will receive passports with questions designed to teach while helping them through the maze, Carmichael said.

``If they can answer the question right it will tell them which way to turn,'' she said.

There is also a petting zoo, a 70-year-old barn and pumpkin patch where visitors can pick their own pumpkins.

The maze between Madill and Ardmore on U.S. 70 has logos chosen by representatives from the Five Civilized Tribes and cultural items inside the maze, farm owner Jonna Way said.

``Your goal is not just to find your way through the maze, but to find all the five (tribal) capitals plus the Oklahoma Territorial Capitol,'' she said. ``You've got a puzzle within a puzzle.''

Way's husband, Alan, who was trained in drafting, built the maze out of sudan, a variety of hay.

Ten miles northwest of Seiling on Ramona Moss' farm, visitors can find their way through a five-acre map of the state with points of interest and the state seal. Moss' son cut pathways in the corn when it was 3 inches tall, using her design.

``He used a hoe and Rototiller. It took him almost a week to get it done,'' she said.

Admission prices at the four mazes range from $3 to $6 for adults.

The Weatherford, Ponca City and Seiling sites open Sept. 1. The one in Madill opens Aug. 31.