A brief look at how we got started
Our interest in agri-tourism began to develop in 2000 as we began to plan our transition out of tobacco production here at Forrest Hall. We were looking for an alternate crop that would generate a farm revenue comparable to tobacco and one that would allow us all to continue to work together as a family. We were looking for agricultural enterprises for the farm that would provide year-round farm activity and help provide the operational diversity that would lead us to sustainability.
In the winter of 2000 Joe found an article in the Progressive Farmer magazine about corn mazes. Corn Mazes had been popular in the mid-west for some time and seemed to be moving East with their popularity. We were intrigued. We did not know how our community would receive a corn maze operation. We did know one thing for sure – that growing a little bit of corn and a little bit of hay were not going to make up for the missing farm income. We decided as a family that we would try it for a year and see what happened. If no one came, if we couldn’t do it, if we didn’t like it, if was too demanding then we just wouldn’t do it again. We’d just pick our corn and move along to something else.
So here we are today – 14 years later – Crazy Corn Maze farmers! We did indeed learn how to do it. We design and cut out our maze each year ourselves. Our boys figured out how to do it and we often tell young visitors that it is a really good reason for paying attention in math class! We like to do things ourselves. While there are professional companies to design and cut out mazes, we still prefer to do ours as a family. We did not know there were such companies at first and by the time we learned about them, we had figured out how to do it ourselves. Over the years we have tried to tie our annual maze design to some item of local agricultural history or interest.
During the 4th year of our Corn Maze operation, we opened our Farm Shop. We had already committed land to fruit trees, berries and garden vegetables. Now we needed a place to sell them to the public. Over the years, we added a bakery, farm raised meats, a full line of McCutcheon products, flowers from our greenhouse, snack items and a selection of gift items and collectibles to the shop. The shop remains seasonal – open from July-December. Meat sales along with our field corn, hay and straw continue all year. Fall season items include cornstalks, straw, Indian Corn, gourds and pumpkins for decorating.
Our Grand Opening
Maryland Independent News Article
Published October 28, 2003
After growing tobacco for more than 40 years, the Joe Wood family at Forrest Hall Farm in Mechanicsville, Maryland, chose a maze operation as something they could all do together as an alternative. The “Crazy Corn Maze” is open August 17 through October 31 and involves all three grown children, spouses, and seven grandchildren. The maze experience includes a hayride to the orchard or the pumpkin patch, a visit with farm animals, a hay slide and free face painting. Ticket holders who complete the challenge get a free watermelon or pumpkin, or something to eat at the Snack Shack. The family is building a Farm Shop for retail sales of local produce, crafts and pies which they say, “will keep us busy as we retire from off-farm jobs.” The ag-entertainment venture is enjoyable and seems to be appreciated by the community.
A Little Piece of our History
Forrest Hall is a small family farm of just about 100 acres – 55 acres of tillable land and 45 acres of woodland. It has been in the family for just about 100 years – most of these years in tobacco production.
Forrest Hall’s main crop from the 1920’s through the remainder of the century was tobacco, topping out at about 35 acres. Joe’s grandfather, Harry Wood, grew tobacco here until his death in 1969. As tobacco production began to phase out in this region around the year 2000, we began exploring alternative crops and farming ideas. We searched for an operation that the family could work on together as a team…just as we had done with tobacco. The farm remains a working farm to this day, with a good mix of tillable soil and woodland, as well as a one-acre pond that provides a home to a variety of wildlife.
Harry and Avie Wood believed in the land, the county, and the crop. Forrest Hall Farm was, to them, a way of life. The two shared dreams, hard work, joy, and sadness…all of their efforts show today in the family they raised. The farm remains in the Wood family and has been for about 100 years, still farmed, still loved.
Upon Harry’s death, the farm went into an estate of nine interests. It took us about 20 years to buy back the interests … one by one … and restore the homeplace to one parcel of land. We are part of the state’s tobacco buyout program and the farm is currently in ag preservation.
For over 30 years, we have worked full time on the farm, and have also held full-time jobs off the farm. Currently, our farm includes our three married children and our seven grandchildren. The farm is surrounded on three sides by development and located along a main highway in St. Mary’s County.
Our plan, as it was developed in 1965, would have likely moved us to purchase the farm from Joe’s grandfather – had he lived longer. Although it did not happen that way, we were abel to acquire the farm completely by 1990. Once that was done, we immediately set about to make the farm productive again. This meant improving the soil, installing a water supply and irrigation, establishing soil conservation practices, building out-buildings, purchasing equipment of our own, and more. Once this part of the plan was underway, we made plans to live on the farm. Unfortunately, by that time, the old manor house could not be saved. We decided to build a new home on the footprint of the old, and we had it designed with a similar floor plan. Joe’s grandmother, Avie always dreamed of a newer home here on the farm, and unfortunately, that dream never became a reality for her. We even re-named the road “Avie Lane” in her memory. Following this, we were free to devote time and energy to protecting the farm from development. During this time period, it was not unusual to get several offers from realtors each week.
Enhancements and improvements are ongoing. We recognize that we are located in a highly visible area, and if we want to attract visitors, we must look like we are expecting them. With all these things accomplished, we now focused on transitioning out of tobacco production and assure the viability of the farm…well beyond the ten years of the buyout program. We had to make the operation ready for transfer to our next generation. Our goal is to return to getting the farm’s income back to the level of tobacco production days with consideration for inflation, and more.
We’ve learned an awful lot about ourselves, our children, and our family while riding back and forth over the land planting tobacco, and then spending evening after evening together in the stripping house! We learned that it wasn’t the crop…it was us working side-by-side, fulfilling dreams, enriching lives, and most of all continuing the legacy of Forrest Hall Farm & Orchard…as a family. We continue to live right on the farm, along with our three married children and their families, including a whopping seven grandchildren. And here we are today… ”Corn Maze” farmers and lovers of the land.
With that said…we welcome you and hope you enjoy yourselves when you visit.