Farmers bring fall fun to the Delta
By Tristan Bennett
Delta Digital News Service
BROOKLAND – Autumn in the Delta brought a business opportunity to many small family farmers.
Many farms in the area set up pumpkin patches and corn mazes as a family fall attraction to make a little extra cash after harvest. These farms draw in everyone from families to groups of college students. Jerry Whitten, who owns WF Mootown Corn Maze in Brookland, runs his business as a way to stay in the agriculture industry after retirement.
“I grew up on a farm, had cattle, my parents farmed, and I worked in the agriculture industry. So when I got a chance to retire from that job, this was something I thought I could do,” Whitten said.
Mootown offers a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, corn maze, bonfires, hayrides and a program for school children. Whitten credited great weather for the high turnout so far this year.
Matt and Anna Beth Presley visited Mootown to complete the corn maze and choose pumpkins to carve.
“She’s a nurse and I’m a cop, so our schedules are kind of busy. So this is date night,” Matt said.
The couple said they came to enjoy the fall festivity and the cool weather.
Whitten’s school program, “Spookley the Square Pumpkin,” tackles problems of bullying among young children and promotes agriculture.
Whitten said, “We have a trail set up in the woods, and it’s basically the book on boards that they read as they go through the woods, and they do a challenge at the end.”
When children visit the farm, they learn the process of growing pumpkins as well. Whitten talks to them about production and how to plant the seeds. Many teachers also prepare their students for the visit by actually growing a pumpkin in class.
Farmers who run these fall farms must start planning early in order to pull it off by the beginning of the season. Pumpkins can be especially difficult to grow. The Farmer’s Almanac suggests farmers wait until all threat of a frost is gone and water and fertilize often throughout the growing season.
“My analogy is they’re like a goat. They’re born looking for a reason to die,” Whitten said, “But they’re a lot of fun to watch because you always think there’s none there until the leaves start dropping, and you think, ‘wow there’s a lot of pumpkins out there.’”
The corn maze also draws people to the farm. Arkansas State University’s Catholic Newman Center brings a group of students to Mootown each fall. Zachary Ridgeway serves as the president of the CNC student organization.
“We do it to get all the new students to get to know each other better and have fun at the same time,” he said. “We’re doing the corn maze, which some of us have already successfully completed. We’re going to carve some pumpkins, and later we’re going to have a bonfire and hot dogs.”
Planning the corn maze also takes some time for Whitten to complete. In Arkansas, farmers plant corn in April or May and harvested in September. In order to keep it green throughout maze season, Whitten does not plant his corn until after the Fourth of July. Then, the maze must be cut out of the corn
“For years I did it the old-style way. Basically, the design is on graph paper, and every row of corn corresponds to a row on the graph paper. You just take marking paint and a lawn mower and start counting rows,” Whitten said.
Nowadays, professional corn maze cutters do the work for the farmer. They use GPS systems to mark the design in the field and cut it using a tractor and a tiller.
While a lot of hard work goes into it, Whitten said he enjoys the work he does.
He said, “I like raising it, but to me, watching the kids and the families come enjoy it and make memories. We’ve had several who have been with us every year, and it’s kind of a family tradition. That’s a lot of fun.”
Many farms like Mootown close for the season soon. Visit for family fun as well as to support local agriculture.
Editor’s Note: Feature photo and video by Tristan Bennettt.