ON Newsletter - Fall 2023
A Reimagined Family Farm
Angie and Alan Treinen’s 100-year-old farm took on a new life as a beloved corn maze.
PHOTO BY TREINEN FARM
Love Wisconsin, our digital storytelling platform, connects you to stories of inspiring people across the state. Whether a life story resonates with your own or introduces you to a vastly different experience, we’re hoping you’ll find that we Wisconsinites have more in common than not.
Here is an excerpt from Angie Treinen’s story about an unexpected twist in the life of their family’s century-old farm.
“Treinen Farm has been in my husband’s family for over 100 years. He’s the third generation on the farm and our kids are the fourth.
My husband had pigs here when I met him, and he farmed corn, soybeans, and hay. He also had half an acre of pumpkins. So when I met him he had this little pumpkin patch weekend thing, and I started helping out.
Families came to the farm for their pumpkins when their kids were little. But we noticed that they stopped coming as kids got older. We heard about people putting corn mazes on their farms, so we went to check one out in Mount Horeb. This was about 1999 and there weren’t very many of them in Wisconsin.
My husband’s first comment was, ‘We’re paying $6 to walk in someone’s cornfield? No way. No one’s ever going to do this.’ But we decided to try it. In 2001 we put in our first maze. We had to put $20,000 to get it up and running and I was just so worried that we were not going to make that money back.
I found out that there’s this whole network of people who did agritourism. I didn’t even know that that was a word. But combining agriculture and tourism as a way to bring people to farms is a great business idea for small farms like ours.
For the first few years of our corn maze, we hired a graphic designer. Then I started designing our 15-acre mazes myself. My husband learned how to cut it into the field when it’s only a foot tall. Eventually, the corn gets to be 10 feet tall around you. Then you have these trails, basically, all you see as you walk through the maze are these corridors of corn.
In 2020 I decided the maze needed to be a place that was hopeful, a little refuge from the crazy world. I remembered something I learned about at the Saturday Science Event at the Institute for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus. One of the science booths had tardigrades, these little water bears that are about a millimeter long.
Water bears are one of the most resilient animals on the planet. They were taken experimentally into outer space and exposed to the vacuum for days at a time and were just fine when they came back. We all needed resilience that year. It really made me think differently about what I design. Now I ask myself, ‘What do we need in this particular moment in this particular world?’
We have a very successful maze with up to twenty thousand visitors each year. Our business is very different from the historic farming practiced on this farm over the past one hundred years, but farmers have always had to innovate. I wish we could show Alan’s grandparents what we are doing today–I think they would love it and be so happy that the farm is still doing well and still in the family.”
Read Angie’s full story, meet other Wisconsin neighbours, and subscribe to the newsletter that delivers these stories to your inbox at lovewi.com.
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