It’s that time of year again when the leaves begin to change color and a chill is in the air. While most people begin to wind down after the long summer days, one family in Monroe County gears up to create an annual fall attraction that brings hundreds out to their farm.
The McCormick family of Byrnside Branch Farm in Union has once again transformed their agricultural farm into a family-oriented world full of fall activities including a pumpkin patch, corn mazes, hayrides and much more. What started out as a way to entertain a family member on his birthday nearly 20 years ago has now grown into an event many look forward to year after year.
According to Becky McCormick, manager of Byrnside Branch Farm, her father, Dirk, first made a corn maze on the property to celebrate her younger brother’s birthday on November 1. As word spread around town about the corn maze, local residents wanted to walk through and see it for themselves. So, the McCormicks set up a jar charging just $1 to go through the maze.
“It was an honor system,” McCormick explained. People could come to the farm, go through the maze, and put their money in the jar. As the years passed, the McCormicks kept adding activities to that initial corn maze.
“Every year it snowballed,” McCormick said of the event.
Soon, the McCormick’s added fire pits that people could rent out. Those first tractor pulled rides to the fire pits have now evolved into 45 minute hayrides around the property, which allow visitors to see the family’s Longhorn cattle.
While a beloved Longhorn “Hercules” passed away last winter, the family has welcomed a new Longhorn to the family that is sure to impress visitors with his size, McCormick said. Additionally, some of the female cattle are ready to calve, so those on the hayride can watch the new calves with their mothers.
As more people began to visit, and as the hayride grew, so did that first corn maze.
Today, visitors can enjoy a huge 12-acre maze that takes about 1 hour to walk through, McCormick noted. A smaller maze is located on the property that only takes about a 15-minute walk to complete and there is a “natural vegetation maze” that also takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Typically, younger kids are entertained a long time in the smaller mazes jumping and playing, McCormick said.
Eventually, a small animal zoo was added. This year it features a baby beef cow, “Okie” the farm horse, two mini-horses, two goats and sheep. “The animals love little kids because they feed them,” McCormick laughed.
While the family had to cancel the barrel train rides this year due to the Coronavirus, McCormick said that kids can still play in the tractor tire playground and the corn crib, which is a sandbox full of corn instead of sand.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of foods at the concession stand including hot dogs, cheese steaks, chili, candied apples, and cupcakes. Jumpin Johnny’s Popcorn has a stand set up where they will be selling different varieties of their popcorn, McCormick added. For those who wish to purchase sweet corn, potatoes and other seasonal produce, they may do so at a small shop located on the property.
As the sun sets, families can go through the “Twilight Maze” with flashlights or glow sticks.
All of the events, even the “Twilight Maze” are family friendly, according to McCormick.
“While some people come out of the maze scared, it is only their imaginations,” McCormick said.
Byrnside Branch Farm is open until November 1. Hours are Friday: 5-10 pm; Saturday 10 am – 10 pm; and Sunday 1pm-8pm.
While there is an admission fee for the various activities, the McCormicks continue to follow the tradition of that first maze and use the honor system for folks who visit.
“We are a small family business,” McCormick said. “Most of the employees are volunteers and many are family.”
While some visitors come from places as far as Charleston and Roanoke, most of the people who visit are local, and the same families attend year after year.
“People choose us because we are so small,” McCormick said. “It is a place where everyone feels welcome.”
While the activities are outdoors, for Coronavirus safety, attendees are asked to wear masks when they are in a location where they cannot socially distance. Also, staff members will be wearing masks.
For more information about Byrnside Branch Farm call 304-772-3131, or visit their Facebook page.