Drought in Georgia: Metro Atlanta corn mazes left withered by heat

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Drought in Georgia: Metro Atlanta corn mazes left withered by heat

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The Rock Ranch
A picture of the corn maze at The Rock Ranch before and after the drought in Georgia.

A record-breaking drought has left the corn mazes of metro Atlanta withered and its farmers weary with watering.

"We pretty much pumped our well dry," said Suzie Kimmel, whose family runs a corn maze at Sleepy Hollow Farm in Powder Springs. 

Fifty counties across North Georgia are in at least an "extreme" drought. The state issued its first drought alert of the year Sept. 9.

The corn would already be dead by this time of year, but the drought accelerated the process.

In all, more than 7.9 million Georgians live in drought-affected areas.

And Kimmel is one of them.

She said her family has put about 40,000 gallons of water on their 4-acre corn maze since they planted the last week of June.

She estimated they've spent $10,000 on labor and water along with the 30 stand-up sprinklers and 500 feet of hose they had to purchase.

During the wet fall last year, their corn was 10 feet high. This year, it maxed out at 6 feet and started to brown in a hurry.

It's gotten so bad they felt it necessary to alert customers on their website.

The only thing worse than the weather is the angry people who come expecting a lush corn maze during a drought.

"We’re a family-run business. We're tired and frustrated and people just aren't understanding and think we can control the weather," said Kimmel, whose father started the farm 40 years ago.

They're not the only ones. Take the Still Family Farm down the road.

"This summer, we watered twice as much," said Leslie Oubre, president of Still Farm.

It takes two workers two days every time they want to pull water from the Powder Springs Creek to irrigate the 5-acre maze.

"That's a lot of man hours," she said.

Oubre said the drought has also forced her husband Jeff Still to water the roads for their hayrides because of all the dust kicking up.

They're doing the same thing miles away at 

Buford Corn Maze and at Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville, said “Uncle Shuck,” Mike Pinzl. 

The 12-acre maze this year is sponsored by Northside Hospital and includes Northside’s logo within a stethoscope, within the outline of the state of Georgia.

And overhead view of Uncle Shucks Corn Maze provided by the farm. Uncle Shucks Corn Maze

It may be less dense with corn, “but it’s still a viable maze. It’s just as much fun,” Pinzl said. 

Uncle Shuck’s has operated a maze for the past 15 years and is expecting this to be one of his busiest weekends of the maze season.

The Rock Ranch's 4-acre maze in the design of actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has also been hard hit by the drought this year.

There are several stations within the maze that tie into the history of the city or to the actor.

"It's still standing, but it's pretty well dried up," said Adam Pugh, operations and business development director at the ranch.

On Friday, farm workers were setting up orange, plastic netting woven through the stalks to preserve the maze's integrity. In addition to the drought, the corn stalks at the farm, about an hour south of Atlanta, were also impacted by strong winds that came through the area last week, Pugh said.

"We don't want to be too picky because last year we had several rainouts that affected us financially, so you hate to complain," he said.

The farm hasn't suffered financially yet this year, helped in large part by the higher than average temperatures that have kept the crowds coming out.

"It's still an enjoyable experience," Pugh said.

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