Odd Job: Corn-Maze Designer

Turning a cornfield into a carnival attraction is no easy task. A corn-maze designer tells all.
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©2009 Lori Adamski-Peek Photo

2009 Lori Adamski-Peek Photo

Brett Herbst makes a living off corn, but he doesn't grow a stalk of it. Farm owners hire Herbst and his Utah-based team of six to turn more than 200 cornfields into mazes for tourists each fall.

He "grows" the mazes.

Herbst doesn't mow down fully grown stalks of corn: His crew hits fields across the country in June, when stalks are only two-feet tall. He brings computerized sketches and sometimes even uses a GPS tracker to make sure he’s cutting the design accurately.

He can make a cornfield look like your face.

While most jobs call for standard-issue corn mazes, Herbst has created some big media spectacles, too, like designs of the solar system or Oprah Winfrey's portrait, viewable only from the air. He finds facial features the trickiest. 'You only have two elements of contrast: corn and dirt," he says.

An inside secret:

Some say that if you walk through a maze and keep your hand on one wall the whole time, you'll find your way out. Herbst says this tip usually works, but it’s not guaranteed. His job is to trick you: "Watch out for diversions—just because there is a bridge doesn't mean you need to cross it to get out."

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