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Money and fun: Corn maze saved the farm at Little Bear Bottoms

September 23rd, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life, Business

By Brandon Fonda

WELLSVILLE – The corn maze is what brings in most visitors this time of year, but it’s only one of many attractions on the 30-acre farm at Little Bear Bottoms. It also includes a haunted trail, spooky barn ride, two straw forts, pumpkin patch, string maze and, new this year, a train ride pulled by a four-wheeler.

“I’ve been coming here with my family for eight years now,” said Dale Buchanan, a Nibley native. “This is probably their favorite fall activity.”

Little Bear Bottoms helps local farmers provide for and bond with their families while creating entertainment for all ages. Brothers Jed and Paul Clark continue to improve their establishment, now in its ninth year of operation, making it increasingly popular in Cache Valley.

The business is run by the Clarks and several of their neighbors. It requires a staff of about 30 people, half of which are in the haunted trail scaring people. The others are stationed at the concession stand, entrance and ticket booths at various activities.

“I come here after school on most weekdays and I’m here almost every weekend,” said Emmalee Clark, a 17-year-old junior at Mountain Crest High School. “It’s a lot of hours but it’s fun to be with the family.”

A lot of hours indeed.

Jed begins plotting the maze in early May when he plants the corn. “After the corn grows eight or so inches we mow it down and then till the ground so it doesn’t grow back,” Jed said. “So by the time we open up the maze in September, it has been sitting here for anyone to get lost in for months.”

But the maze is just the beginning of his work.

The forts, which are built out of hay bales, are equipped with slides, secret passageways and mattresses for kids to jump on. The haunted trail, more than a half-mile long, follows a nearby creek in the woods, winding through obstacles and old farm equipment.

Each takes a great deal of time to plan and set up new ways to scare people.

“Oh, I’ve spent hundreds of hours setting all this up,” Jed said. “Sometimes my wife has to hold me back on some of my ideas for scaring people.”

Though Little Bear Bottoms takes a lot of work, Jed finds joy in pulling it all together. “As kids we would always try and set up forts with the hay on my dad’s farm,” Jed said. “I really enjoy doing all this.”

But Little Bear Bottoms hasn’t always been just enjoyment and bonding for the family.

The Clarks sell their corn as cow feed for cattle owners around the valley. In the summer of 2003, a client who usually bought a substantial portion of the Clark’s crop sold their cows. “By August we were stuck with acres of unused corn,” Jed said.

The Clark’s crop usually brought in earnings of about $17,000 annually. “Losing that much money would have put us under,” Jed said. “I guess the corn maze idea just kinda fell into our laps.”

Although the Clarks can now sell all of their corn again, they continue to do the corn maze each year. “We actually make about double the money doing the corn maze than if we were to just sell all of the corn each year,” Jed said.

Little Bear Bottoms is located 5000 S. Hwy 89 in Wellsville. It is open Monday through Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday 5-11 p.m. and Saturday 1-11 p.m., with the exception of the haunted trail which will not open until Sept. 28. Prices and discounts can be found on their website at http://lbbcornmaze.com.

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