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Maze of adventure
Mitchams turn farm into tourist destination

The Mitcham Farm goes back five generations in Newton County. For more than 50 years, cotton, vegetables, livestock and feed crops sustained the farm. In the latter part of the 1900s and into the beginning of this century, beef cattle kept it going. But in the last several years, the Mitcham family has tried a new tact in generating income from the land - Colonel Cob's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch.

Activities at Colonel Cob's include a 7-acre corn maze with 21/2 miles of path, hayrides, a bonfire with weenie and marshmallow roasting, pumpkins for sale, corn cannon, giant mountain slide, inflatable jumpy, petting zoo, cow train, pony rides and a play area for children. With tickets from $4 to $14 per person depending on the activities, it's an opportunity for the Mitchams to bring in extra income.

"Agritourism allows you to be a little profitable on small farms. It gives you another option," said Kevin Mitcham, who runs Colonel Cob's with his father, Tommy Mitcham. "If you didn't have agritourism, it would be tough to make a living off of 100 acres."

The Colonel Cob's Corn Maze also features an educational component. The Mitchams grow sample cotton, peanut, soybean and sorghum crops for school groups to see and corn trivia facts are posted along the way in the maze.

"It's enjoyable to know that you can let people know what goes on at the farm. The farmers have a chance to tell their story and not let anybody else tell it for them," Kevin said.

Tommy Mitcham said the corn maze got a shaky start back in 2002 when the corn planted for the maze got blown flat by Hurricane Frances. The Mitchams propped the corn up as best they could and welcomed visitors despite the damage. About 1,000 came through that year.

"I said 'We have to keep going like nothing happened,'" Tommy said.

Since then, Colonel Cob's has grown in scope, with the Mitchams adding new features each year, such as the slide, pumpkin patch and hayride. The corn maze also welcomed back local magician Kyle Groves who performed Saturday and has later dates on Oct. 3 and 17.

Tommy Mitcham said he'd like to add more entertainers, perhaps musicians, and include church groups and other nonprofits who might like to do some fundraising.

"We're always looking for new ways to make it interesting to people," Tommy said.

Karen J. Rohr can be reached at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Colonel Cob's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch

· When: Through Nov. 15: 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays; noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays; 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays

· Where: 797 Macedonia Church Road, Oxford

· Cost: Tickets from $4 and $14 depending on activities

· For more information: Visit www.colcobscornmaze.com or call 770-855-1530 or 770-786-8805.