By Lauren Moore
Public Affairs Specialist
“It started with a six-acre corn maze and a few pumpkins,” said Dirk McCormick, a farmer who has welcomed guests to his Union, West Virginia, farm every fall for 15 years.
Adding a little more each year to his fall attraction, visitors to Byrnside Branch Farm can enjoy three mazes, a U-pick pumpkin patch, seasonal produce, bonfires, farm animals and farm tour by tractor.
“This is our 15th year, but it wasn’t very big when it first started,” he said. “A lot of locals and people from surrounding towns come out and visit.”
Dirk grows 18 acres of pumpkins, 14 types of winter squash and six varieties of gourds, which he sells directly to consumers during the autumn growing season.
“I worked on a neighboring dairy farm and my dad had a small farm, so I’ve been farming all my life,” he said. “I bought this farm in the early ‘80s and have been operating on my own ever since.”
The farm was purchased with a farm ownership loan through the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). These loans allow producers to purchase farmland, construct and repair buildings and make farm improvements.
A dairy farmer originally, Dirk transitioned the farm into a beef, vegetable and row crop operation. In addition to his festive fall crops, he raises cattle and grows potatoes, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and more.
“Whether I’m milking cows or growing vegetables, I like feeding other people,” he said. “I’ve grown almost any kind of vegetable you can name. I sell them on an online farmers market.”
He grows his vegetables in high tunnels, added with financial assistance from his local conservation district and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Dirk also enrolls his corn in FSA’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, which offer financial assistance to producers of major row crops when either commodity prices or revenues are below certain levels.
This year’s biggest corn-maze spans 18 acres of his farm, with an additional two-acre corn maze for children and a smaller hay maze.
On his farm tour tractor hay ride, visitors can see his entire farm and farm animals, including sheep, goats, miniature horses, Quarter horses and longhorn cattle.
“I get a lot of questions about farming during those rides,” Dirk said. “Some kids never get the opportunity to see a farm and don’t know where their food comes from. I’m just glad that the kids that come to see my place get to see and feel that connection.”
For more information about USDA programs and to find your local service center, visit farmers.gov.