Colorado farmers using land as fall tourist destinations to sustain throughout the year

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THORNTON, Colo. -- A farmer's life is not an easy one, especially in a state where drought, extreme heat, and hailstorms are a given. Colorado farmers are looking to other ways to make money to sustain themselves through the year.

“The farming industry has gotten extremely tough over the last 15 to 20 years,” said Mark Villano, Co-owner of Maize in the City.

Maize in the City sits at a little more than 50 acres on McKay road in Thornton. Villano said this labor of love has never come easy.

“To be honest with you if it wasn't for the corn maze I probably would have quit 15 years ago. It’s just been so tough,” said Villano.

Less water and more drought are making it harder on Colorado farmers.

“It has made things much more expensive to be able to grow crops,” said Villano.

According to the U.S.D.A. Census of Agriculture, more than 33,000 farms across the U.S. in 2012 brought in an average of $21,200 each in additional income due to agritourism. The number of farms grew from 23,300 in 2007 to 33,000 in 2012. 

In Colorado in 2012, 864 farms brought in an average of $28,000 in agritourism. 

Villano is using agritourism to turn his family owned agricultural land into a tourism destination.

“It’s fun to come here and see the kids and the happy faces and hear people scream because they are scared inside the haunted house,” said Villano.

By day, families can pick out their pumpkins, check out the petting zoo and enjoy a variety of fall activities. By night, the corn maze turns into the Haunted Field of Screams.

“It’s not just being out in the 95 degree weather picking vegetables; this is fun. I really enjoy it. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s a lot of fun,” said Villano.

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