TIPPECANOE COUNTY (WLFI) — Exploration Acres has a new activity for guest to enjoy this year; a sunflower maze.
Every fall season the farm opens for a variety of family-fun activities, including the well-known corn maze.
Now Exploration Acres has created a 10 acre field, with 4 miles of trails, and 24 different varieties of sunflowers to create a sunflower maze.
Co-Owner and President of Exploration Acres, Tim Fitzgerald, says they have expanded their business and now offer a new sunflower maze.
“We’re Northwest Indiana’s largest corn maze and pumpkin patch, but this year we’ve decided to expand into sunflowers for the month of August,” said Fitzgerald. “We’ve got about four miles of paths out there that people can wind through and just enjoy a really unique experience.”
Fitzgerald says they kept their well-known corn maze in mind while creating the sunflower maze.
“It's actually designed like one of our corn mazes that we're very well known for,” said the Co-Owner and President. There's winding paths, so every turn that you make you're going to see different types of sunflowers."
Fitzgerald says he has received a lot of feedback over the years about expanding Exploration Acres with events at different times of year.
The sunflower maze was originally going to open last year, but Fitzgerald says they were unable to due to COVID-19 requirements and restrictions.
“This is our first year, but people have been asking us for some time to expand and have something else at other times of the year,” said Fitzgerald. “We are a venue where we want people to design their own experience when they walk in the gate.”
The new sunflower maze is one of the many ways Exploration Acres operates as agritourism in Indiana.
Purdue University Agricultural Economist and Associate Professor Ariana Torres explains what agritourism is.
It's the practice of utilizing farm assets, or a farm location, to connect agriculture to the community and society they serve,” said Torres.
Torres says the sunflower maze is a great opportunity for the farm to be a part of agritourism in Indiana.
“It’s an opportunity to educate consumers in this case, or families and new generations of Hoosiers, about the importance of sunflowers and the importance of pollination,” said Torres. “"I think sunflower agritourism is a magnificent idea that Exploration Acres has."
Fitzgerald says they have been answering a lot of questions, which is a great way to educate the community about agriculture.
“We’ve been fielding a lot of questions about sunflowers, like why do we need bees and what are the bees doing?” said Fitzgerald. “Well they’re pollinating.”
Fitzgerald says Wildcat Apiary actually provides the bees for Exploration Acres.
As you walk through the sunflower maze, you’ll actually see the bees pollinating the sunflowers.
“The sunflowers of course are providing nectar for the bees, which will be turned into honey,” sad Fitzgerald. “That honey will be harvested by the apiary and sold in our store this fall.”
If you are allergic to bee stings, Fitzgerald says to bring your EpiPen just in case.
He says once the sunflowers die off for the season, he's thinking about using them for bird seed.
The Sunflower maze is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until August 29th.