Total cost of production, corn = (number of acres planted) x (production costs / acre)
The cost of producing corn based on Extension recommendations designed for optimum grain yield vary, but typically range from $450 to $500 per acre. This reflects regular production expenses, including seeds, fertilizer, fuel, harvesting, management, and land charges. However, in many instances, producers adapt their production practices to facilitate the establishment of a maze. For example, to ensure corn stalks remain green during the maze operation season, corn maze operators often delay corn planting, which may reduce grain yields. They may also select varieties based on specific characteristics related to maze operation such as standability, maturity and height rather than yield. Corn maze operators commonly establish higher plant populations or alter planting patterns (i.e., cross planting in a grid pattern), resulting in higher per-acre seeding costs. Additional production considerations may include altered weed management practices (i.e. PRE applications rather than POST applications of herbicides), inability to side-dress fertilizers, and yield loss due to late season pest damage. These variations in production practices can impact input costs when compared to conventional practices.
Cost of production budgets are available for many crops through land grant universities. See for example, Rutgers University crop budgets or Penn State University budgets. These tools provide useful guidance to producers, but should be amended to reflect departures from conventional growing recommendations needed to establish a maze.
Designed and Cut by Operator
Corn maze operators may design their own mazes, or hire outside firms to design and cut their maze. Firms in the northeastern states often charge from $1,500 to $1,900 for a five-acre maze of average complexity. This cost includes design creation, and cutting the initial design into the corn field. A producer may elect to design and cut the maze themselves (i.e. using a handheld GPS, grid paper, etc.). A producer electing to cut a maze himself to reduce establishment costs needs to consider the value of his (or an employee’s) time, and other directly related costs such as equipment and fuel.
Corn maze paths should be mowed periodically to keep paths clear of weeds. The frequency will depend on several factors including weather, herbicide use, and weed pressure. The time needed to maintain a maze will vary based on the size, complexity and intricacy of the maze. For a five-acre corn maze, mowing will take approximately 3 hours per week for up to 10 weeks. The sample budget provided at the end of this fact sheet assumes that the producer owns an appropriate mower and therefore includes only hourly wages. Other costs such as maintenance and fuel should also be included for the most accurate budgeting of costs.
On-farm signage may provide parking or directional information needed to help move customers safely and efficiently through your farm. Corn mazes often have signs with clues on how to escape the maze or interesting agricultural facts. Signs are also an effective marketing tool to promote other aspects of the farm operation. A maze operator can create durable signs with a computer, printer, and laminator. If an employee does the work, those labor hours should also be included in costs. Other sources for signage include internet-based companies and local printers. If you wish to use roadside signs to direct customers to your farm and corn maze, first check with state or local authorities that may have jurisdiction over roadside signage and review any applicable right-to-farm provisions. The costs of roadside signs vary greatly depending on the size and quality of the sign.
Some states have tourist-oriented directional signs (TODS) programs through which eligible farms may purchase signs for placement on highways.
Cost of Promotion / Advertisement
Effective promotion and advertising are paramount to the success of a corn maze. These costs are highly variable. A broad rule of thumb suggests that promotion and advertising comprise 10% to 30% of total operating costs. Promotion costs and strategies will also vary over time, especially as the use of information technology and social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) to reach customers continues to grow. An operator of a new corn maze needs to generate awareness within target markets (achieve market penetration) whereas an established operation may seek to keep existing customers or differentiate itself from new competitors. Newspaper ads, promotional literature, websites, newsletters, radio, billboards, and social media sites can all be effective tools. Be strategic by choosing advertising media that target the customer base most likely to visit your corn maze. Consider also whether you have the time and expertise to be an effective marketer, or whether it is more cost effective to hire an outside professional. A five-acre corn maze might spend between $5,000 and $10,000 (or more) on promotion and advertising per season. Be mindful of the importance of word of mouth (person-to-person or through social media) to the success of your agritourism business. Ensuring that customers have positive experiences that they share with friends and family generates free advertisement. Keep the farm visually appealing and safe, and maintain high customer service standards for all employees to enhance the visitor experience.
To ensure patrons have paid, operators generally use hand stamps, tickets, or wristbands. Wristbands are a good method, especially if you have more than one agritourism attraction (e.g., hayride, pumpkin picking, etc.) and the operation is structured as “pay one price.” Vary wristband colors on different days of the week. Wristbands can be bought in bulk for as little as $.02 per band.
Customer parking should be safe, convenient, and adequate for the number of visitors expected at the farm. It is important to note that the construction or improvement of parking areas may be subject to local standards or may need to meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for right-to-farm protections. Generally, parking areas must be easy to navigate and provide for safe traffic circulation. They should be kept free of slip, trip, and fall hazards as well as combustible materials (e.g., avoid having customers park in areas where crop residues may be a fire hazard). Directional signs guiding customers to the entrance of the maze should be posted in the parking lot. If a maze operates after dark, adequate lighting should be provided to illuminate the parking area. A flat open field can be used for overflow parking (e.g., a close-mowed hay field). In addition to mowing, operators may opt to make additional improvements to parking areas (e.g., grading, fencing, cones, barriers, hay, stones, lighting, etc.). Consider both labor and materials costs required to create an adequate parking area.
Temporary restrooms can be rented on a long-term basis for approximately $3.50 per day with a minimum of a two-month lease. The number of restrooms provided depends on the maximum number of patrons you’ll host at a given time. For example, expect to provide at least two or three public restrooms for a five-acre corn maze. Check local municipal regulations on requirements regarding portable restroom use. Hand-sanitizing facilities may be required as well.
Cost of Improvement
Temporary or permanent infrastructure may be required for the operation of a corn maze. Structures or improvements may include tents, pole barns, maze overlook structures, ticket booths, lighting, parking barriers, or picnic tables to better accommodate visitors. Some building improvements are considered capital investments and can be depreciated over time.
In many cases, land charges will be factored into the cost of producing corn on the farm. Therefore, it would be unnecessary to again reflect this charge in the budget for a corn maze. On the other hand, if someone were to purchase or rent land for the sole purpose of starting a corn maze, land costs need to be budgeted.
Seasonal Labor: Non-Managers
Seasonal Labor: Managers
Many corn maze operators employ friends, family, neighbors and local students on a seasonal basis to staff corn mazes and ancillary functions. The budget template assumes the need for both non-managerial and managerial staff and wage rates are assumed to include applicable payroll taxes.
Consider the range of jobs that will need to be performed (e.g., directing traffic, collecting ticket sales, monitoring guests in the maze, etc.). Carefully plan for the length of the corn maze season (e.g., 4-6 weeks) , as well as the number of days and hours the maze will open each week (e.g., four hours on Friday evenings, six hours on Saturdays, etc.). Note that some staff will be needed prior to and after the maze's actual hours of operation to assist with preparation and closing.
Total corn maze admission fees = ( number of expected visitors ) x ( admission fee per person )
Choosing a maze admissions price requires consideration of a number of factors, including the consumer demand for a corn maze in your area, local competition, and the amount of profit you wish to generate. Consider the prices charged by other corn mazes in the region, but also consider what other corn maze operations offer. Some farmers offer additional agritourism products all for one price. For example, a nearby farmer may charge $12 as the fee to enter the corn maze, take a hayride, and pick a pumpkin. If you offer only a corn maze, you’ll want to price accordingly.
The worksheet allows for analysis of the impact of different price points and customer volume assumptions on the total net returns from the corn maze. Consider also any additional revenue you anticipate will be earned from the corn maze (e.g., will you charge a parking fee?).
Total revenue from sale of corn = ( number of bushels ) x ( price per bushel )
|Quantity||Price / Unit||Sample Budget|
|Corn production (acres)||X||=|
|Maze Design and Cutting|
|Design Costs and Initial Cutting|
|Path Maintenance Cutting (Labor Hours)||X||=|
|Path Maintenance Fuel (Gallons)||X||=|
|Sub-Total (Maze-design and cutting)|
|Apparel for Employees||X||=|
|Promotion and Advertising|
|Parking Area Improvements|
|Infrastructure Improvement 1|
|Infrastructure Improvement 2|
|Infrastructure Improvement 3|
|Infrastructure Improvement 4|
|Infrastructure Improvement 5|
|Hired Labor - Non-Manager (Hours)||X||=|
|Hired Labor - Manager (Hours)||X||=|
|Sub-Total (Maze Operation)|
|TOTAL COSTS (Growing, Designing, Operating)|
|Quantity||Price / Unit||Sample Budget|
|Maze Admission Fees (visitors)||X||=|
| Other Sources of Maze-Related Revenue
(e.g., parking, etc.)
|Other Revenue Source 1|
|Other Revenue Source 2|
|Other Revenue Source 3|
|Other Revenue Source 4|
|Other Revenue Source 5|
|Corn Yield Receipts (bushels)||X||=|
|REVENUE FROM MAZE OPERATION|
TOTAL NET RETURNS
|TOTAL NET RETURNS FROM CORN MAZE (Revenue - Costs)|