Local farm is making ag amazing
Skelly’s Farm Market and the Rock County Farm Bureau Federation will host the second annual Focus on Agriculture day from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 13, at 2713 Hayner Road, Rock Township.
The event is open to elected officials, educators and the media and is intended to teach participants about the importance of agriculture in Rock County. It will include a farm tour, speakers and a dinner.
To learn more or to register, call (608) 758-2733 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today.
ROCK TOWNSHIP It looks like a lawn mower roaring through knee-high corn, but there’s more than meets the eye.
Bolted to the top of the mower is a wooden box containing a military-grade laptop. Within the laptop are the secrets to …
Well, OK … they’re just maps to corn mazes—one of which is called “Tractor-formers.” But they’ve been a big key in making a rural Janesville produce farm one that can support several families.
That’s one reason the Rock County Farm Bureau Federation is holding its second annual Focus on Agriculture event at Skelly’s Farm Market, 2713 S. Hayner Road, in Rock Township, west of Janesville.
The focus of this year’s focus event is education, farm bureau President Doug Rebout said.
“Skelly’s is a great place to show the importance of ag education,” he said. “The way their farm market got started was through FFA projects.”
The farm bureau is inviting state and local elected officials as well as educators and the media to attend the event. It’s a way to remind decision-makers how important agriculture is to other businesses and to schools in Rock County, Rebout said.
Scott Skelly, 23, spent a recent weekday patiently mowing a “Tractor-formers” maze in a six-acre section of knee-high corn at the family farm. It will be one of two mazes designed to amuse visitors during the fall agritourism season.
Next week, the farm will host the Focus on Agriculture program designed to teach local elected officials, educators and the media about the role of agriculture in Rock County.
“Legislators, educators and business people are so far removed from the farms,” said Rebout, whose family farms west of Janesville. “We want to help re-educate them on how important farms and farmland is for the business, for education, and for our health.”
Agriculture is the third largest employer in Rock County, and the industry provides jobs for more than just farmers, Rebout said. Work options include food processing, manufacturing, banking, feed processing and ethanol production, he said.
“It’s not just the farmer,” Rebout said. “You’ve got a lot of other businesses.”
Skelly’s started small, but now enjoying sweet smell of success
Until 2000, cows lived in the barn that is now a retail store smelling of candles and fresh doughnuts at Skelly’s Farm Market, 2713 S. Hayner Road.
Starting with a few rows of sweet corn, the business has grown into a retail store, several roadside stands and a farmers market booth. It supports three families, said Scott Skelly, 23.
The Skellys raise tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini, strawberries, pumpkins and squash on 100 acres.
And, of course, there are the corn mazes.
This week, Skelly is in the middle of the corn-mowing season, a grueling three-week race to mow before corn grows too high.
The season started in Illinois the third week in June. Next, Skelly mowed two mazes at the family farm and planned to mow a dozen more. He travels in a camper and hauls his own mower, and he will go as far as Baltimore, Md.
“It really wears on you fast,” he said.
Skelly launched the business, Corn Mazes America, when he was a 14-year-old student at Janesville Parker High School.
Despite the hard work, it’s a job Skelly loves. The produce season contains so many smaller seasons—strawberries ripen in June and sweet corn in July, for example—that it means no workday is the same, he said.
When he was in elementary school, Skelly bugged his dad to build a maze out of snow fence for the fall season on the produce farm. Tom Skelly didn’t bite on the idea, but he did agree to try mowing a small maze in a cornfield—a concept that was relatively new in the ’90s, Scott Skelly said.
“Twenty years ago, people would have said, ‘This is just crazy,’” Scott Skelly said about mowing paths in growing corn.
Now he encourages other young people not to be intimidated by such thinking and to take advantage of the resources available to them at school.
“Don’t be afraid to start young,” Skelly said. “It took us 10 or 15 years to get to where we are.”