By Kim Scotto-Kelley
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the second year in a row, students in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) geomatics program are partnering with a Florida family farm to promote agritourism.
The Single R Ranch in Plant City is co-owned by Carson and Janet Futch, both UF graduates. Each fall, the family opens up their property to the public to give non-farming folks a chance to see first-hand where their food comes from.
“Agritourism has become a hot topic in the state of Florida, whether it’s through a ‘U-Pick’ operation, corn maze, or a working ranch,” Carson Futch said.
Their main annual event, the Fox Squirrel Corn Maze, is a family-friendly gathering featuring a pumpkin patch, games, local vendors, and, of course, a four-acre corn maze.
This year’s maze was designed by CALS students Betty Morris and Tim Jaskiewicz, both in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. The two are employed full-time as a GIS analyst and practicing surveyor, respectively. Morris and Jaskiewicz are able to complete their studies at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Plant City and the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research & Education Center in Apopka through the CALS statewide distance education program.
While the maze opened to the public this past weekend, the design process started back in May. The two were sponsored with a $1,000 scholarship apiece from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA).
“When we met with Janet and Carson, we discussed the parameters for the maze, such as path dimensions and safety rules. Of equal importance, we also wanted to design a creative trail that would be challenging, fun for participants, and also celebrate the FSGA,” Morris said.
Morris and Jaskiewicz also got to experience the somewhat unpredictable nature of farming. After heavy rains in the spring, the corn grew quickly and the paths had to be mowed sooner than anticipated.
“Luckily,” Janet Futch said, “they knew and understood the need for speed. Working with Betty and Tim was a joy. Their work ethic was impeccable, and I know that they’ll both go far.”
The corn is now fully grown, and Morris and Jaskiewicz completed the design just in time for the opening. They are looking forward to bringing their families to the farm to show off their hard work.
“We both learned a great deal about professionalism, delivering a timely product, and most of all, put our shared learning experiences to use,” Jaskiewicz said. “The Fox Squirrel Farms corn maze may become a UF Geomatics tradition, and I look forward to following this project for many years to come.”
The maze is open on weekends through Oct. 27. For more information, visit futchentertainment.com/the-fox-squirrel-corn-maze/.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS website at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media.