Corn maze pro­motes ‘Right Choices’

Westside Eagle-Observer - - NEWS - RACHEL DICKERSON rdick­er­son@nwadg.com

SOUTH­WEST CITY, Mo. — Galen Man­ning, his wife Bar­bie and their staff pro­mote a dif­fer­ent right choice each year at Right Choices Corn Maze and Pump­kin Patch in South­west City. This year’s right choice is church at­ten­dance, and the maze is in the shape of a church, Man­ning said.

He ex­plained how he got into this busi­ness. He grew up on the 600-acre farm on which the maze is lo­cated. He was a mem­ber of the fifth gen­er­a­tion on the farm. He stud­ied agri­cul­ture in col­lege but ended up, in 1977, go­ing to work for Wal­mart and get­ting into man­age­ment when the com­pany still had fewer than 200 stores. He re­tired from Wal­mart in 2005, was 49 years old and didn’t owe any money, and could af­ford to go into full-time farm­ing, he said. He had vis­ited a corn maze and en­joyed it.

“I wanted to do some­thing that I could leave be­hind me that could have a pos­i­tive ef­fect for my chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and fu­ture great-grand­chil­dren,” he said.

He said he had many sto­ries from his days at Wal­mart as well as per­sonal sto­ries, so he wrote a book. He took his sto­ries and at­tached each one to a Scrip­ture pas­sage and re­searched the Scrip­tures’ orig­i­nal mean­ing in He­brew or Greek. The book is called “Make Right Choices,” and it is a Bi­ble study book. From there, he got the name for his corn maze. It opened in 2006.

His brother Gary re­tired at the same time, and he part­nered with him. They re­stored the barn, which had been on the prop­erty since the late 1860s, did some ba­sic things and every year kept adding to it. Bar­bie is re­tired now, as well, and she also helps quite a bit, he said.

Last year the farm hosted 7,000 chil­dren on field trips and 20,000 to­tal at­ten­dance, Man­ning said. They are open six weeks a year. This year, they opened Sept. 22 and will close Oct. 28.

“Every month of the year we’re do­ing some­thing re­lated to the corn maze,” he said.

For ex­am­ple, they pick the de­sign of the maze in Jan­uary. They have joined an or­ga­ni­za­tion in Utah called The Maize that helps them form the maze. He plants the corn in June or July. The corn is planted in a grid pat­tern. Then, when the corn is about a foot tall, The Maize comes and flags where the paths are go­ing to be and sprays the corn that is to be elim­i­nated. Then Man­ning and his crew mow it down.

Asked what he enjoys about the corn maze busi­ness, Man­ning said, “I en­joy the pub­lic, the peo­ple. I get to see old friends, peo­ple I used to work with. If peo­ple come from a long dis­tance to visit, peo­ple bring them to the maze.”

He enjoys the agri­cul­ture part of the job, he added. Grow­ing pump­kins is his fa­vorite part be­cause it is a chal­lenge; grow­ing corn is easy, he said.

In ad­di­tion to the corn maze and pick­ing pump­kins, vis­i­tors to the farm may en­joy a hayride pulled by an an­tique trac­tor from the 1930s, 1940s or 1950s. The Man­nings also have a road grader that pulls a hayride, Man­ning said. Hayrides, which go through the woods on the prop­erty, are one of the most pop­u­lar at­trac­tions. There are sev­eral other ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing a corn can­non, a corn box (in­stead of a sand­box), a jump­ing pil­low and cow train — 20 bar­rels painted like cows pulled through the corn­field by a trac­tor.

“Ev­ery­one’s al­ways happy,” Man­ning said of his vis­i­tors. “It’s a fun place to come to. Peo­ple come pretty long dis­tances to come to our corn maze. A man called from Cal­i­for­nia one time be­cause he was com­ing to visit his mother and he al­ways times it when the corn maze is open.”

“It’s ex­cit­ing,” Man­ning said re­gard­ing the suc­cess of his busi­ness. “I feel like I got in on the early days of Wal­mart and I got in on the early days of the corn maze. This corn maze or­ga­ni­za­tion was only about 10 years old when we got in on it.”

He said he hired 90 peo­ple to help run the busi­ness this year.

Man­ning said peo­ple have sug­gested putting in zip lines or do­ing a haunted corn maze. He said he is not against those things, but he is go­ing to stick to the ba­sics. He wants it to feel like vis­i­tors are com­ing to Galen and Bar­bie’s farm, he said. Also, he wants it to have a whole­some, overtly Chris­tian at­mos­phere, which is ev­i­dent from the cross on the barn.

“We’re pro­mot­ing right choices be­cause right choices pro­duce right re­sults. We’re try­ing to stay with right choices and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for agri­cul­ture. The ap­peal is to get back to the sim­ple, coun­try life and to get away from all the stuff that keeps us all busy every day.”

McDon­ald County Press/RACHEL DICKERSON

Galen Man­ning, owner of Right Choices Corn Maze and Pump­kin Patch, shows off some of his pump­kins.

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