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Shady Maple Farm keeps the “country” in Lake Country. Encircled by subdivisions, the 115-acre farm in Hartland offers seasonal fun for all ages. In addition to pumpkin picking and hay rides, the farm’s grand opening this fall introduces a hands-on educational center and a too-cute petting zoo.

Planting roots

When Jim Stolz and his brother bought the farmland, they knew they didn’t want to see it developed into more homes. Instead, they envisioned a working farm where visitors could learn about agriculture and animals.

In spring 2015, they planted 7,000 ornamental trees; 10,000 strawberry plants; 10,000 asparagus plants; 1,200 grapevines; 2,500 raspberry bushes; and 600 fruit trees—apple, peach, plum, cherry, apricot and pear. They hope to see the fruits of their labor, literally, next year.

In the meantime, other parts of the operation continue to grow. Last October, they opened a corn maze and sold pumpkins to the public. This summer, a roadside produce stand sold pre-picked strawberries and raspberries as they ripened.

Work continues year-round on the farm, and this fall sees the introduction of a petting zoo, educational center, concession stand, and more, to Shady Maple Farm.

Peak season

The farm is open extended hours during October. All activities are a la carte, and visitors can build a scarecrow, make their way through the 5-acre corn maze, visit the animals, have their faces painted, and more.

“Most people want to take a hay ride and find their own perfect pumpkin in the patch,” says Activities and Marketing Manager Deanna Pattridge.

A concession stand will sell chili and pulled-pork sandwiches, apple cider and make-your-own caramel apples. Kids can burn off some energy playing in the hay, and little ones can enjoy a half-acre low-stalk corn maze designed just for them.

The brand-new one-acre petting zoo houses chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, lambs, alpacas, goats, calves, a miniature horse, and a very, very large horse: a Shire named Samson. There are even three little pigs.

Grass “sidewalks” allow people who are fearful to enjoy the zoo without necessarily entering the pens, although Stolz and Pattridge handpicked the gentlest breed of each animal.

Inside the 100-year-old barn, a new educational center will be open to weekend visitors and also used during field trips. “We’re trying to show people what farm life is like and also the different products you can get from it,” says Stolz.

Kids can enjoy a video about farming, guess what different tools are used for on a farm, watch eggs hatch inside an incubator and see baby chicks up close. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, animals from the petting zoo can be brought inside for parties or field trips.

“We’ll continually be adding things that are of interest to kids,” says Stolz.

Growing operation

While Stolz had thought about someday living on a hobby farm, he hadn’t anticipated running one as a business. For the past 23 years, he has worked as a commercial insurance salesman. He still works full time, with a second shift spent on the farm.

Creating Shady Maple Farm has involved a steep learning curve, physical labor and patience as crops grow and plans come together. Despite the long hours, Stolz is already looking ahead to spring, when he plans to open a retail center and offer pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries and grapes.

“You’re always fearful. What will people think? Will they like it? So, to sit here and see people really enjoying it makes it worth all the work,” says Stolz.

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