Local farm plans fall activities
October 14, 2021
White Pine Berry Farm, a family-owned produce farm in River Falls, is putting on a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and other attractions as part of their fall festivities. The small farm, which is less than nine miles from the UW-River Falls campus, has held a corn maze each fall for the last 10 years, and Andrew Zwald, the son of the farm’s owners, said it’s one of their most popular attractions. This year’s maze covers eighteen acres and features a number of intricate designs, including sunflowers, pumpkins, a coffee cup, and an outline of White Pine’s general store, where they sell jams, jellies, and homemade fudge.
The maze is much more elaborate than when it was first created, as White Pine now uses technology such as GPS navigation and agricultural data software to create the maze. Zwald described the entire process by which the maze is planted and the designs are created.
The process begins with the planting of the field, which is done in a unique way. Unlike a normal field, two layers of seed are sown, which creates a crisscross pattern. This prevents maze-goers from being able to look between the rows of corn and easily find their way out. After this, the corn is raised normally, using the proper fertilizers and nutrients.
Next, the designs are created and applied to the field; this is where the magic happens. Zwald’s wife Kim creates the designs on a computer program. In the past, various companies have sponsored the corn maze, and White Pine receives input from them that is incorporated into the final design, along with their own ideas. This design is sent to a partner in Kansas, who is experienced with the agricultural mapping program Trimble. She converts the design to the exact parameters of the field, allowing Zwald to use GPS to create the design. Using a tablet with the GPS system connected to it, Zwald then walks through the rows, guiding another worker who uses a mower to cut the design into the field.
Other methods for creating a corn maze include making a hand-drawn map and using flags or other markers to show where to use the mower. This is more tedious and time-consuming, and was what White Pine did in the past before they upgraded to the GPS system.
Another method includes using an automatic shut-off planter, which is programmed to avoid planting corn where the paths will be. With this method, no mowing is necessary, but it requires more advanced planters than White Pine currently has.
Another popular fall attraction at White Pine is their pumpkin patches, which are planted at the end of May or beginning of June. Besides decorative pumpkins, they sell pie pumpkins and squash as well. Other fall offerings include raspberries and sunflowers.
On Saturdays, they hold their Fall Family Days, complete with two bounce houses, a petting zoo, a straw bale maze, yard games, and more. They even have basketball nets on the back of a gravity wagon for shooting free throws. White Pine also offers guided wagon tours, where they teach visitors about the variety of crops grown on the farm.
In spring and summer, the farm offers other fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, all of which visitors can pick themselves. White Pine’s produce is organic and picked straight from the vine, meaning it is fresher and tastes better than their store-bought equivalent. Zwald said their hope is not to just offer visitors delicious produce, but also the experience of visiting the farm, picking their own fruit, and spending the day outside.