A&H corn maze

This year’s corn maze at A&H Farm is a sunflower with “Ad astra per aspera,” the state’s motto, in the center. Owner Andrea DeJesus said the motto, which translates to “To the stars through difficulties,” is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A&H Farm south of Manhattan is venturing into fall with a corn maze design that honors both the state of Kansas and the year many of its residents have endured.

The corn maze opened Sept. 18, but the planning began last winter after a year when people lost loved ones, businesses suffered and many spent much of the year stuck at home. Andrea DeJesus, owner of A&H Farm, said she wanted to provide an activity where people could escape some of the challenges they’ve been facing.

“It’s where everybody’s been,” she said. “People need to relax and they can do that here.”

The design features a sunflower with the state’s motto, “Ad astra per aspera,” or “To the stars through difficulties,” in its center. Signs at 16 checkpoints throughout the 10-acre maze ask questions about the state. The 16 checkpoints reference the state’s 160th anniversary, which is being celebrated this year. Questions cover Kansas’ state insect, the highest point in Kansas, state geology, animals and more.

“Some facts you know, and some facts I learned myself as I was doing it,” DeJesus said.

A crew cut the maze in a day using a digital design, a flail mower and a GPS. Some areas, like the inside of a letter A, had to be cut by hand.

Including the state’s motto in the design felt especially appropriate to DeJesus, because the difficulties it references have been so prevalent during the last year and a half.

“Our motto is really what a lot of people went through with COVID,” she said.

A&H has created corn mazes on its property before, but DeJesus said this one is a step above others from the past and she hopes that sets it apart.

“We’ve never done one this elaborate,” she said.

The maze’s design is unusual in that there is no single entrance and exit. For people who might be nervous about getting lost in a corn maze, this open concept design makes the experience more about enjoying the time outdoors and less about navigating the field to find the right path out.

“This is not one you get lost in,” DeJesus said. “There’s any way out once you get in.”

The maze’s educational checkpoints further one of the farm’s goals, DeJesus said, to educate people about agriculture, the land and how food is grown. Interacting with the crops, the animals and the land can teach people, especially kids, about these topics.

Some stalks in the corn maze still have ears of corn on them, and DeJesus said she can tell people have picked an ear and taken it with them. She said this can show children a step in the process of how food gets to their table.

“They know this is where some food comes from,” she said.

She said the open concept along with the educational element also make the maze appealing for all ages. A mom who brings a toddler to the maze won’t have to make it through the whole thing, DeJesus said, but said a group of teens had spent an hour working their way through all the checkpoints.

“For an hour they were entertained,” she said. “Nowadays that’s hard to do, entertain a teen without an electronic device. It’s great families can put them away.”