Corn farmers navigate through drought maze

9:09 PM, Aug 13, 2012   |    comments
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Livestock producers are paying higher prices for feed, and those increased business expenses will eventually find their way to grocery stores.

By this fall, the effects of the drought will be felt by corn mazes.

In some eastern states, where corn fields receive little or no irrigation, the corn has grown only a few feet high. Those fields will not be able to be used as corn mazes and the farmers will experience even more lost revenue.

Over the years corn mazes have become very popular in the fall and, in some cases provide farmers with a significant portion of their total income.

"It is very important to us," said Glenn Fritzler, a corn farmer and owner of Fritzler's Corn Maze. "We've been doing this for 13 years and we've established quite a loyal following."

The corn maze is located along highway 85, just north of Gilcrest. Approximately 30,000 people visit the corn maze each year.

"This year we're going to estimate that this is going to be 50 percemt of our gross income," Fritzler said.

Because of the financial return the corn maze provides, Fritzler had to make some very difficult decisions earlier this summer about which fields he would irrigate.  

The drought conditions left farmers in Weld County without surface water from rivers for much of the summer. A 2006 ruling by the Colorado Water Court left them with very limited ground water to use for irrigation.

"I've had to walk away from fields of sweet corn," Fritzler said.

Those fields of sweet corn now sit withered and dead, lost to the market. They are also a loss to Fritzler's investment.

The corn maze field he irrigated has grown to well over head high and has been cut with pathways forming an elaborate. 

Fritzler says the image it forms is very recognizable to people. He is keeping the subject of the image a secret until just before the corn maze opens on September 15. 

But it is safe to say Colorado football fans will like it. The Fritzler corn maze will remain open until Halloween, after which the field corn will be harvested and used for livestock feed.

He hopes that next year he won't have to make decisions about which fields to irrigate and which ones to let to die.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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