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New sunflower maze in Aulac attracting attention

Tom Trueman and his nephew Victor DelVillar look out over the thousands of sunflowers that make up the new corn maze at the Trueman’s u-pick site in Aulac.
Tom Trueman and his nephew Victor DelVillar look out over the thousands of sunflowers that make up the new corn maze at the Trueman’s u-pick site in Aulac.

AULAC, N.B. – Tom Trueman is always looking for ways to expand his business. As an eighth-generation farmer, he and his family recognize the key to success in farming today is diversification – and this year they have taken that to a new level.

On a six-acre swath of land near their farming operation on the Etter Ridge Road in Aulac, the Truemans planted more than 250,000 sunflower plants this past spring as they began to get ready for their latest endeavor. Now, several months later, the sunflowers are in full bloom and the Truemans are welcoming visitors to come and check out their new attraction, a family-friendly maze that is designed to be challenging for all ages.

“It’s been open for a couple of weeks now but we’re just now in full bloom,” said Trueman last Wednesday morning from the family’s new farmstand that is situated alongside the maze.

Designed to be a fall attraction, Trueman said plans are in the works for special events over the next two-and-a-half months at the maze and u-pick site to help draw in more visitors throughout the season, including a special Halloween event featuring a possible haunted trail or hayride.

He hopes the maze, along with the raspberry and blueberry u-picks on site and their brand new farmstand which features ice-cream, home-baked pies, and honey for sale as well as an observation bee hive, will bring in people looking for something to do on a beautiful fall day.

“We’re trying to make it into a destination,” he said.

The sunflower maze was designed and planted on the site in commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

So far, response to the maze has been great, said Trueman, and is being enjoyed by visitors of all ages – “everyone from little kids in slings on their parents’ backs to teenagers and grandparents coming through.”

With picnic tables on site, Trueman said families are welcome to bring along a picnic lunch or grab some produce or pie from their stand and stay for the afternoon.

“There seems to be a demand for people looking for things to do with their kids, family outings, at a time of year when there might not be a lot to do.”

The maze, which took seven hours to plot and mow back in May, was planted on a grid system, with the paths plotted on the grid and mowed with a commercial lawn mower.

With 10 checkpoints hidden throughout the maze in the most unexpected places, the maze is designed to be challenging and can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to complete. At each of the checkpoints, there will be a letter that you collect and you can unscramble a mystery word at the end. (Or if you opt not to complete the challenges, you can use a map to find your way through in about 20 minutes).

An aerial view of the maze shows a special Canada 150 design in commemoration of the country’s 150th anniversary, and also features the ‘Trueman Blueberry Farm’ name as well as an image of a honey bee.

“That shows the pollinator side of our operation . . . which goes nicely with the design because sunflowers are quite a good crop for the honey bees.”

An observation hive is one of the many highlights of a visit to the Trueman’s Blueberry Farms.

Tom and his wife Krista have been involved in the production of wild blueberries and honey bees for nearly two decades. The Truemans harvest more than 300 acres of blueberries each year and also boast more than 1,200 bee hives. The bees are used primarily for pollination services, both to pollinate their town crops and to custom-pollinate other crops around the province. The bees also produce thousands of pounds of raw, unpasteurized honey each year which is processed at their own Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspected honey facility and sold both on-site and in local retail outlets.

The farmstand and maze are new just this summer, along with the three acres of raspberry u-pick on site. Trueman said they have planted both summer and fall varieties of raspberry and blueberries (which are ready this week) so harvesting will go well into September.

“We’ll go until the frost hits,” he said of the u-pick business. “We usually get frosted out before we run out.”

With the new endeavors, Trueman said it’s been an interesting experience moving more into the ‘agri-tourism’ industry, rather than the large-scale commodity production they typically do.

The Trueman family in Aulac planted more than 250,000 sunflower plants this past spring to prepare for their maze.

“It’s a different type of business than the large-scale farming we usually do,” he said. “We’re always trying to do something new so this gives us a different direction to try.”

Depending on the success of the maze this year, Trueman said expansion is possible, with the potential for a corn maze next year as well as the sunflower one.

“It’s our first year so we’re figuring out where we are in the marketplace. But if we get good response, we may try and do something else.”

For more information, visit the Trueman Blueberry Farm's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Trueman-Blueberry-Farms-1576822212564579/.

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