Kelsay Farms was still a few decades away from being established in Whiteland when Indiana became a state in 1816.

But for one of Johnson County’s most historic and long-lasting farms, this year is as good as any to celebrate its agricultural heritage.

In planning its annual fall festivities, Kelsay Farms has adopted a bicentennial theme. The 7-acre corn maze is decorated with the bicentennial logo, an outline of the state, the year 2016 and, since it’s a dairy farm, a cow’s head.

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A scavenger hunt inside the maze will all be tied to the past 200 years in Indiana. A display outlining the history of the farm and the region will also be featured.

Because of its historical bent, the Kelsay Farms experience has been named a Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. The project was one of nine approved for Johnson County.

“We’re in the same location as we were since we were founded, and that’s pretty phenomenal,” said Amy Kelsay, who co-owns the farm with her husband, Joe. “Our kids are seventh generation now, and it’s amazing that we can carry on that family tradition with the roots that were put down so many years ago.”

Since it was founded in 1837, Kelsay Farms has been an important part of the region’s history. Seven generations of the family have lived and worked on the dairy farm.

They felt this was an appropriate year to celebrate.

This will be the 10th year the farm has opened to the public and school groups in the fall. Much of their offerings have remained the same.

The intricate corn maze, which the Kelsays plot using special computer software and mow down throughout the summer, has been a crowd favorite. Families wander the stalks searching for the right way through.

Braver souls can use flashlights to navigate the seemingly unending wall of corn on Friday and Saturday nights.

For younger kids, a children’s corn maze has also been created. The maze is tied to the book “Jack and the Corn Stalk” by Aaron Barakoff.

“It’s good for kids, since there’s only one way in and one way out. But as they’re walking around, they can read the story that we’ll have out on storyboards in the maze,” Kelsay said.

Another classic is the straw bale mountain. About 100 large bales of straw and many other smaller bales go into constructing the peak, which allows kids to scramble up and down the man-made ledges.

People can go on tours of the dairy, see baby calves, play in the corn crib area and pick out their own pumpkins.

“The activities that we do are things that we used to do on the farm, whether it was playing in the corn or building straw forts. The fact that we can do that for other kids today, we just love that,” Kelsay said. “So many kids don’t get the chance to run around like this.”

Fall has become one of the busiest times of the year for Kelsay Farms. In addition to their day-to-day work of milking and caring for herd of dairy cows as well as harvesting crops, hundreds of people come to the farm every day.

An average of about 400 students are scheduled to come to the farm each day, and the weekends bring families and others looking to enjoy the autumn weather, harvest-related activities and dairy snacks such as grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes.

“Our field trip business has just exploded. There are a lot of teachers out there who see the value of coming to a farm where we can tie in health standards, history standards, science standards, math standards,” Kelsay said. “The weekend crowd is a little bit more relaxed, milling around at people’s own pace.”

The fall activities are designed to be entertaining and fun for all who come to the farm. But at the same time, each feature underlies the Kelsay family’s ultimate goal — education.

“We’ve always felt like it was our responsibility to teach as much as we can about modern-day farming, and we get that opportunity here,” Kelsay said. “A lot of the kids who come here are elementary-age, and it’s sometimes their first opportunity to think about where our food really comes from.”

If you go

Experience the Farm 2016

When: Friday through Oct. 30

Public hours: 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays; extended hours noon to 6 p.m. weekdays from Oct. 10 to 21.

Activities: Tour the milking parlor and the freestall barn, explore the modern equipment used on the farm and wind through a 7-acre corn maze.

Other activities include Baby Barnyard, Straw Bale Mountain, Human Moosball Foosball, corn crib play area, hayrides, pumpkins and the Moo Choo Express.

Special events:

  • Dairyoke: every Friday night
  • Flashlight corn maze: every Friday and Saturday after dark; the maze is not haunted
  • Fairy in the Dairy: 2:30 p.m. Oct. 8
  • Cookies ‘n Canvas: 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 16
  • Rodeo Ron & His Milkshake Cows: 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22
  • Trick or Treat in the Maze: 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 29

Cost: $8; children 1 and under are free

Information: kelsayfarms.com

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.