When the Kraay family says, “Check out our website,” they mean business.
The Lacombe farmers have just earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records by constructing a corn maze that doubles as a QR code for their farm’s website.
QR — short for quick response – is used on a host of products, and work much like a UPC bar code, but can be scanned with a smartphone with a QR-reading app. The matrix-like, two-dimensional codes typically consist of black modules (square dots) arranged in a square pattern on a (usually white) background.
Making one of corn and dirt is a little trickier.
“At first, we found that the dirt wasn’t black enough so we had to go in and till and make sure that no corn stalks were hanging over,” said Rachel Kraay. “The QR codes are very stark and it had to be very precise.”
Kraay and husband Reuben had suggested Reuben’s parents, Ed and Linda Kraay, try corn mazes when they were transitioning out of hog farming. In 2005, the couple joined Ed and Linda in the business.
The farm property is just 25 acres and, the 15 acres for the maze is rented. Since the field is rectangular and QR codes need to be square, they couldn’t use all of it. But at 309,570 square feet — roughly seven acres — it easily beats the previous record of one acre.
To ensure it would actually link to www.kraayfamilyfarm.com, the couple went up in a helicopter numerous times and other helicopter pilot friends tested it by sticking their phones out the window while flying overhead.
In order to qualify for the Guinness World Record, the Kraay family needed to take pictures of the QR code, video document the scanning of it from the air, and have video documentation of a surveying company checking the site.
“It was a long process, but in the end, it was definitely worth it,” said Kraay.
The family received a certificate saying they had won the world record. They aren’t included in the most recent printing of the book of world records, but there is a possibility they could be included in future editions and they now have the right to use the Guinness trademarks on their promotional material.
“They have so many records that they don’t promise anything,” said Kraay. “They put it online but they don’t promise it will be in the book.”
The world record has generated a ton of press from national and international media, including CTV, CBC, ABC and CNN. Many bloggers have also written about the story.
“Farmers think it’s interesting to do something different in the field and people in the tech world think it’s kind of cool, too,” she said. “It’s been really fun.”
The Kraays plan their corn maze each year by starting with a picture. The maze has to be complicated, look nice from the air and present a challenge to visitors. The family works with a designer who helps create the concept using a computer model that is turned into a grid.
“Making a maze yourself is not that easy and we want it to be fairly difficult,” said Kraay.
The entire field is planted in May, the design marked by paint or flags, and then it is “cut out” using a mixture of herbicides and rototilling, depending on conditions that year.
The farm opens to the public at the end of July and stays open until the end of October.
Making the corn maze is a lot more profitable than selling the corn, said Kraay.
“This corn doesn’t go for a whole lot,” she said. “It’s only 15 acres so you don’t make a whole lot. We basically trade with our neighbour and he buys it for his cows, or he silages all our hay on the other side. It’s a nice, neighbourly relationship.”
The corn variety was chosen for height and strong stalks. It produces a small cob that is unpalatable to humans, although that doesn’t stop people from tasting it. The corn is mixed with other feed when fed to the cows.
Rachel estimates about 20,000 people come to the farm each season — with this summer’s good weather and all the media coverage boosting attendance this year. Admission is $12 for adults, and $10 for kids over age three. The farm is visited by families and schoolchildren and used for birthday parties and corporate events.
Since opening in 2000, the Kraays have added a variety of attractions including peddle carts, a barn slide, mini-golf, jumping pillow, a barrel train, a tire mountain, corn bins, an automated chicken show, and live animals. The Kraays also host events such as family movie nights, and other family-friendly activities and offer a season pass to the farm.
“We want people to come back every year and see something different,” she said.