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Maize offers dual income opportunity for growers

Andy and Beth Watson with family dog Hectate

Maize offers dual income opportunity for growers

2003/04 Season

Owners: Andy and Beth Watson
Farm location: Rangitikei
Farm size: 108 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38P05, 36H36 & 33G26 (for Haunted Maze)
Number of seasons growing: 10

Tourism and maize are unlikely partners in a business venture reaping rewards for Marton farmers Andy and Beth Watson. With over a quarter of their 400 hectare property in maize the Watson's have had 10 seasons growing Pioneer hybrids and meeting the quality standards of Tegel and Turks Poultry.

Learning about similar ventures in the United States, Beth decided to embark on a maze attraction using Pioneer® brand hybrids and taking advantage of their State Highway location. Their venture, 'The Maize Maze,' now fields thousands of visitors a year over its Christmas to Easter season and includes an association with two other mazes, one in Te Kauwhata and the other in Hastings.

Andy says the support offered by Pioneer in the Maze venture has been typical of the relationship he has enjoyed with the company over the last 10 years. The Watson's have seen significant improvements in yields in recent years with the newer Pioneer genetics. He says, "Ten years ago we would have been happy with 7-8 tonne a hectare. Now we look to average 10.5 to 11 tonne with hybrids like Pioneer® brand 38P05."

Around 100 hectares is grown for feed grain, and the main hybrid is Pioneer® brand 38P05. Andy says it is a reliable plant, with good yield and drydown offering an April harvest giving him time to re-grass for grazing winter lambs.

The family Maze venture covers four hectares and is planted with Pioneer® brand 36H36. Not only must it meet the standards of Tegel for grain quality, it must also be robust. "It's a strong long term plant that comes up early and stays green for longer, with a good strong stalk to handle the crowds," says Andy.

In a gothic twist to the family Maze, Andy and Beth now offer the Horror Maze experience. Covering 4 hectares and the woolshed, the maze gives visitors the chance to be seriously scared wandering through the crop at night. Actors are trained and employed by the Watson's to haunt the maize crop and frighten visitors," ... almost to the point some need a change of pants," says Andy. "Even the big guys get scared on this one." The haunting lasts 45 minutes, but a few people don't last the distance.

Although not recommended for the Rangitikei area, the Watson's planted Pioneer® brand 33G26 to create the 'Haunted Maze.' This is because it gets out of the ground quickly and stays green for a long time. Most importantly this hybrid offers plenty of height to get the desired frightening effect. Along with the maze venture the Watsons also grow barley and peas while fattening up to 10,000 lambs a year together with up to 500 beef cattle.