By Kim Scotto
PLANT CITY, Fla. – Farmers and ranchers across Florida are fighting lack of consumer education on food systems by opening their properties to the public in a practice called agritourism. Agritourism allows non-farming folks to learn about the day-to-day operations of a working farm and see first-hand where their food comes from.
One such farm is the Single R Ranch in Plant City, Florida. The Futches, a family of UF graduates, were recently awarded Farm Family of the year by Hillsborough County for their work in agritourism.
“Agritourism has become a hot topic in the state of Florida, whether it’s through a You-Pick operation, corn maze, or a working ranch,” said co-owner Carson Futch.
Since 2012, the Futches have shared their ranch each fall with the Fox Squirrel Corn Maze event. This family-friendly gathering features a pumpkin patch, games, local vendors, and the crown jewel, a five-acre corn maze. This year, they chose to partner with the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center’s (GCREC) geomatics program to make their corn maze bigger and better.
Chelin Lauer, a senior majoring in geomatics, was immediately intrigued by the project. She works as a Survey CAD Technician at King Engineering Associates and has a keen eye for design.
“Chelin is known in the Geomatics program for her creative and elaborate designs,” said Katie Britt, GREC geomatics program specialist, “so she was perfect for the task.”
Chelin and co-owner Janet Futch agreed on the theme: a celebration of Florida farming.
Chelin used computer-aided design (CAD) software to design the maze, which incorporates a tractor, an outline of the state of Florida, and the word “farm.” She then used GPS technology to physically mark out over two miles of trails in the cornfield.
“I am really familiar with the design side, but to get that hands-on in the field experience was indispensable. I plan to build my career in surveying and this was a great opportunity to get to experiment with the different types of equipment available,” Chelin said.
Chelin is mentored by Katie and Amr Abd-Elrahman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Chelin will build onto this experience for her final senior project.
“One of the great things about the Geomatics program is that we’re able to form these really unique partnerships. Together with the Futch family, we provided invaluable real-world experience for a student and also supported a local Florida farm. We plan to engage in similar projects in the future,” Britt said.
The maze is open until October 28. For more information, visit: https://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 web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.