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Ag Tourism Boot Camp Helps Boost Farm Income
Hugh McPherson learned how to manage an ag tourism operation the hard way, and now he is teaching the lessons he learned to others. The founder of Maize Quest, a company that designs custom corn mazes and other on-farm attractions (Vol. 29, No. 3; Vol. 33, No. 5) recently started an ag tourism management boot camp.
  “If you offer a corn maze or other ag tourism events on your farm, you can find yourself managing anywhere from 10 to 50 employees,” explains McPherson.
  He notes that once you start hiring and putting people on the payroll, managing them can get out of hand. “One of our students had 300 seasonal employees,” recalls McPherson. “We help create systems to effectively manage employees. Our classes combine what we have learned in our own operation as well as what we’ve learned from our Maize Quest clients.”
  McPherson has a lot to draw on. His own farm has evolved over the years from a corn maze to the Maize Quest Corn Maze and Fun Park. It grew from a simple corn maze in 1997 to straw bale, fence, rope and other types of mazes. The park also includes gemstone mining, dinosaurs, party rooms, geocaching, life-size board games, a pedal cart track, and even a Wild West train built on a tractor. McPherson offers nearly 50 attractions in all. Each year the business recruits up to 30 part-time employees.
  As McPherson’s on-farm business grew, so did his off-farm clients, other maze or ag tourism business owners. His Maize Quest Maze Catalog offers a variety of products and services individually or in packages for a monthly fee.
  He now has clients in nearly 30 states, as well as the province of Ontario.
  “We offer the boot camp online twice a year for 8 weeks each,” he says. “About half our corn maze clients take the boot camp. Some students run on-farm markets or berry picking.”
  McPherson says the 8 modules include weekly homework, as well as an hour-long virtual class each week. It is priced at $997 with a coupon for a $300 discount for signing up prior to the beginning of a class.
  “If you have 5 employees, I am confident the class will pay for itself in the first month,” says McPherson. “You can spend a lot of money on advertising and the experience, but if people show up and aren’t taken care of or properly welcomed, you can get a real bad reputation.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Maize Quest Corn Mazes, 2885 New Park Road, New Park, Penn. 17352 (ph 866 935-6738, ext. 102; hughmc@cornmaze.com; www.mazefunpark.com; www.mazecatalog.com).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #2