For more than 60 years, the Steed family has operated a dairy farm near Grovetown. But changing times have caused them to seek creative solutions.
"In order to stay here, you've got to make some changes," said Jim Steed, of Steed's Dairy Farm. "It's not whether or not you want change, but what kind of change do you want."
Steed's grandfather purchased the land on Shoffitt Road in 1934 during the Great Depression and found a job at an Augusta butcher shop. The dairy farm started in 1945, and Steed is the third generation to operate the farm.
As neighbors continue to sell their land and current market conditions create a downturn in the dairy industry, Steed said he started considering options.
For Steed, selling and leaving the 176-acre farmland wasn't one.
"About three years ago, I started looking at ways for us to stay here in Columbia County," he said.
Steed, along with brother John Steed III and stepbrother Pearre Morgan, plan to open a five-acre corn maze and farm-animal petting zoo by this fall.
Since 2006, Steed has spent much time researching the logistics of the project and traveling throughout Georgia and South Carolina to gather ideas.
"I get ideas from every place I go, and that's why I try to go to a lot of them," he said.
The profit Steed makes from the activities also will allow him to maintain a small herd of cattle, which is better for the land, he said.
The corn maze should open to the public by September, said Steed, adding that he'd like to incorporate a cotton and pumpkin patch into the first set of plans. The main entrance will be located off Wrightsboro Road.
When the maze opens, Steed wants to offer field trips to schools, day cares, churches and other groups.
"We would like to make the field trips to the maze not only enjoyable to the students that come, but also incorporate some of the things they are learning at school within the maze," he said.
Steed said he also wants to create an autumn tradition for families.
"It's just a beautiful place once you get to the top of the hill," he said. "Once you go over the hill and look, you see everything."
Steed hopes to open a farmer's market, offer tours and build two creameries and a camping site in later phases.
"I wanted to make sure we were going to do it right," Steed said. "The way I feel about it is if you're going to do it, do it right, and then people will come back."
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