By PATRICK McARDLE
Changes to the annual corn maze at Hathaway Farm in Rutland Town are not unusual, but this year’s theme is a little more personal to the farm.
In past years, themes have included farming in Vermont, the Olympics, astronomy and, in 2011, the 250th anniversary of Rutland Town. Last year, the maze got topical with the theme of the presidential election.
For 2017, the theme is a lot closer to home, as the maze marks 75 years that the farm, on more than 100 acres, has been in the Hathaway family.
On a recent Saturday, Irene Hathaway said the farm has undergone some changes since it was purchased by the Hathaway family, but it’s still a Vermont family farm.
“The farm itself evolves, just like anything else,” she said. “Things change, but we still want to work to keep it a farm, and apparently people in the community like that because they come and support us, fortunately, with the corn maze and things that we do. In general, I think people like keeping its farm atmosphere.”
Hathaway said the property is going on its fourth generation in the family. The previous owners, the Osgood family, had the farm for five generations until Byron Hathaway’s parents bought the property in 1942. Byron Hathaway, Irene’s husband, is among the seven family members who currently work the farm, assisted by seasonal help, many of them students at Rutland High School.
The Hathaway farm is diverse. While the Osgoods were known as the “Potato Kings of Vermont,” according to Irene, the Hathaways bought it to use as a dairy farm.
For about the last 30 years, it’s been a place to raise beef cattle and produce maple syrup. There are other livestock on the farm that contribute, like the sheep which provide wool, but the farm is also a center for agri-tourism, like the corn maze. A large number of people were at the farm on an unusually warm September day. Many of them were families with kids.
Erin Maze and her husband, Jason Irie, of Starksboro, were at the farm for the first time with their son Wilson.
“We were looking for fun fall activities and we saw this maze advertised. It looked really fun,” Maze said.
Irie added that this had been a “perfect family outing” and “exactly what we were looking for.”
This was the second visit to the Hathaway Farm for Melissa Bonavita, of New Haven. She said she was at the maze with her husband, daughter and stepdaughter.
“It’s all kid-friendly, kid-oriented entertainment. We’ve been here half a day already and we haven’t been bored once,” she said.
Her daughter, Arianna, 3, said her favorite activity was finding the signs in the corn maze that allow you to punch a hole in a paper that shows you’ve found them all.
Hathaway said there were eight “clues” on signs scattered through the maze this year related to the anniversary.
Sarah Daigle, of Benson, was with her family at the “Pedal Go-Cart” corral. She said the family would try the kid-sized maze later on, and her children were looking forward to visiting the farm animals.
The Hathaway farm has an area where kids can see goats, rabbits, chickens and even a friendly cow, who is more used to human attention than the cows that are kept on a different part of the farm away from the public. Pumpkins, which people can pick themselves and buy from the farm, are also available, with pick-your-own beginning next Saturday, according to Hathaway.
She said many people come to see the maze and many are interested in the farm’s history. Both the barn and the house are on the National Historic Registry.
The farm’s parking lot was filled with out-of-state license plates, and Hathaway said visitors have come from as far away as Israel, England and Scotland.
More information is available on the website at www.hathawayfarm.com.
The 12-acre corn maze, along with the mini-maze for children, will be open through the last week in October. The attraction is in its 16th year.