Owned by Matt Lark, Lark Ranch is about four miles north of Loogootee. Lark is an Indianapolis attorney who owns more than 1,000 acres in Martin County.
This is the second year for a maze at Lark Ranch Last year’s version allowed visitors to wind their way through the likeness of a sunflower. It takes an aerial view to fully appreciate it, but this year’s maze is the image of a cowboy riding a horse and carrying a flag. All of that is contained within a circle that carries the words, “God Bless the USA” on the outer edges.
Lark said about 4,000 students, mostly from southwestern Indiana, visited the ranch last fall.
The maze opened Sept. 19.
“We were real crowded,” Lark said, adding that school groups already have begun scheduling trips this year. “We have had a lot of school groups from all the surrounding area (make reservations) and we even have school groups coming from as far away as Scottsburg, Indianapolis and Evansville.
All students, kindergarten through third grade, at Loogootee West Elementary School are scheduled to visit Lark Ranch next week.
Alice Jones, a kindergarten teacher, said that even though the children are from a rural area, they get to see crops they haven’t seen before. Cotton is among them. Lark grew cotton last year as an experiment, realizing there were few instances of cotton having ever been grown this far north.
Jones said the visits to Lark’s place have become p art of the field trip offerings every year at Loogootee. “This is our fourth year, and he keeps adding a little bit every year.”
Third-grade teacher Kay Ackerman said there’s plenty for the youngsters to experience. She said, “They get to see how pumpkins and corn and sunflowers are grown. And he has lots of cotton.”
Lark said, “Our big thing is making it educational for the children, where they can see a lot of different crops in a farm setting.” The list includes everything from sugar cane to cotton to buckwheat to sunflowers. Lark said the ranch also features 10 varieties of pumpkins and about 60 varieties of gourds.
In addition, Lark Ranch features five varieties of popcorn that can be popped in the microwave while still on the cob. The corn comes in red, blue, white, yellow and a mix that Lark said looks like Indian corn.
“They’re all really unusual except for the yellow and white,” Lark said, “and they have real good popping expansion. People
buy them basically for popcorn and for ornamental use.”
In addition to the crops that students see at Lark Ranch, they also get a chance to see longhorn cattle.
By Roger Moon
Washington Times-Herald, 9/26/03
Indian corn, popcorn and corn stalks are all commonly associated with fall. But Lark Ranch has one more a-maize-ing tradition to add to this year's fall fun - a corn maze.
Using a global positioning system and other technology, ranch owner Matt Lark has been able to cut a 15-acre maze into one of his corn fields. For the past five years, he has invited school and church groups and families to wander similar mazes at Lark Ranch on scavenger hunts for fall-themed items.
But the Indianapolis attorney and Martin County rancher raises more than corn on his 600-acre ranch between Dover Hill and Loogootee. Visitors will also see varieties of sunflowers, milo, soybeans, cotton and pumpkins. There's even red, white and blue popcorn that can be popped right off the cob in a specially-manufactured microwave bag.
Other activities available include hay rides, a nature trail and a petting zoo featuring various farm animals. Wine tasting from Carousel Wineries is available on Saturdays only. Visitors should bring flashlights after dark.
Lark also owns other farms in Martin County and raises longhorn cattle.
"I've just always loved farming," he says, adding that his goal with Lark Ranch was to provide some clean, non-commercialized family fun.
What's more, Lark uses his ranch to support Relay for Life, church groups and scouting. He schedules such groups to run the concession stand as fund raisers. The $5 admission to the ranch for people over 5 years old only goes to cover insurance, he says.
Although the ranch does not routinely offer camping, Lark is willing to work with groups who desire this activity. He especially encourages church groups to visit and says he would let them camp at no charge if they contact him.
For souvenirs, schoolchild ren are each given a small pumpkin. But larger pumpkins and soybean candles are also for sale, along with vari eties of Indian com, popcorn and blue and white pumpkins. Lark planted five times as much popcorn this year to help meet the demand.Last year, the ranch had about 10,000 visitors. This year, Lark expects at least twice that many.
Photo by Shannon Graber
Electric Consumer, 9/03
As summer turns into fall, bright, vivid colors begin to glow across the hills and fields of southern Indiana. Finding time to experience the beauty of the season’s change before the chill of winter is at the top of many people’s lists, and a visit to Lark Ranch is a wonderful way to take in the scenery and share some family fun.
In its second year of operation, Lark Ranch is home to various fall-blooming crops spread across about 600 acres. Matt Lark, owner of the ranch, grows sunflowers, pumpkins, cotton, soybeans and several varieties of corn during the fall season. In the middle of the cornfields, Lark has plotted out a 13-acre corn maze in the shape of a cowboy atop a horse.
Designed as an educational resource for children, Lark Ranch is a popular field trip destination. Last year, approximately 4,000 kids visited the ranch and explored the maze, which is free for educational groups.
For families who come out to try their luck at the maze, admission is $5 per person, and children under five years old are free. The maze takes about one-and-a-half to two hours to complete, and a 25-minute hayride is also included in the price of admission.
Along with the hayride and maze, the ranch sells pumpkins, ears of popcorn and homemade soybean scented candles. Guests can also visit the petting zoo, which features Texas longhorns, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits and a pig.
Lark, a lawyer from Indianapolis, spends his weekends and spare time at the ranch preparing for the fall season. He has owned the property for five years and has farmed in Martin County for more than 20 years.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a great way to meet people and create something that’s truly family oriented.”
Lark delights in giving back to the community that has brought him such joy. He grows and sells sweet corn and donates the money to the Eastern Food Pantry and St Vincent DePaul in Loogootee. Lark Ranch is also a corporate sponsor of the Martin County Relay for Life, to which Lark donates $5,000 in free ranch admission.
Lark is looking forward to an even more successful year this fall.
“I was really happy with it last year, and I think it will be even better this year,” he said. “I think we have a lot to offer kids and families.”
The Lark Ranch is located four miles north of Loogootee on Highway 231 just past West Boggs Park and is open every weekend from the third week in September. Fridays it is open from 4 p.m. until dark, Saturdays from noon-10 p.m. and Sundays from noon-6 p.m. Lark Ranch can accommodate groups up to 200 people. For more information, call (812) 295-9555 or visit www.larkranch.com.
Shoals News, 7/30/03
Shown above is a photo of several who were busy pickin’ sweet corn at the ranch of Matt Lark, located between Dover Hill and Loogootee, on Friday morning, July 25th. Pictured in front, from left to right, are Eric Lark, Adam Lark, Kyle Lark, and Taylor Browling. Shown in back, from left to right, are Matt Lark, Tillie Brown, Zack Brown, and Tom Truelove. Matt advertised a promotion this Spring to sell sweet corn from his farm to benefit the Eastern Martin County Food Bank, in Shoals, and the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry, in Loogootee. The crop did very well for the fund raiser.
Matt noted that Bill and Terry Shaw, along with several others, had just finished picking corn for the Eagles Lodge shortly before the photographer arrived. The lodge is assisting in the project to benefit the two food banks. An adjacent cornfield is progressing very well which is the location for his 2003 Fall Corn Maze, which will be announced in a few weeks.
Shoals News Photo by Stephen A. Deckard
Washington Times-Herald, 10/23/03
A rural Martin County farm owned by Matt Lark has drawn many visitors and students.
The special farm features a corn maze, pumpkin patch, gourds, Indian corn, cotton, persimmons, sunflowers, Texas longhorns and a horse.
Lark said he had been raising pumpkins and Indian corn for several years and decided to expand the business. With the help of his neighbor, Jeff Lake, the business has grown into a tourist attraction.
Lark said between 2,000 and 3,000 children from area schools have visited the farm free of charge and walked through a short version of the corn maze.
The farm can give hayrides for large groups of up to 200 to 250 people. There are plans to continue the hayrides through the fall and possibly into early winter.
Lark plans to expand the business next year by adding a “Corn Celebration” in mid-July. This will have a festival-type atmosphere featuring every type of corn. Tilly Brown will be featuring various corn dishes during the festival. Lark said he plans to give away 10 acres of sweet corn during that time.
Also, Lark would like to add a petting zoo and possibly have a pumpkin festival next fall.
Lark doesn’t charge much to visitors. He asks they pay $5 each to help cover the cost of insurance.
To get to the farm, follow the corn maze signs off of U.S. 231, just north of West Boggs Park. The farm is about seven miles northeast of Loogootee.
Photo by Shannon Graber
Matt Lark has done what fellow Hoosier farmers just haven’t tackled.
He has grown cotton in Indiana.
In sowing and nurturing the plant that’s one of the textile industry’s mainstays, Lark was acting, well, on a lark.
The venture was never about profit, but was instead about simply finding out whether cotton could be grown in Indiana and then giving it away to anybody who wanted to share in the yield.
Lark particularly wanted Hoosier youngsters to see cotton in the fields.
Lark said, “The reason I wanted to plant it around this area is, number one, you don’t see it, and it gives kids an opportunity on field trips… to see something unique to this area.”
It isn’t just a chance to pull the emerging white fiber from the woody cotton plant that is attracting groups of students to Lark’s farm this fall. Lark, an Indianapolis attorney who owns more than a thousand acres in Martin County, has taken 10 acres of a 120 acre cornfield and designed a sunflower-shaped corn maze that has come an autumn attraction.
The vision for a cotton patch is one that struck him about a year ago.
Lark also collects old tractors. From talking with other tractor enthusiasts he knows around the country and from his periodic travel in the South—where cotton is widely grown and is a lucrative enterprise—Lark heard the same story from people he met along the way.
“Everybody said you couldn’t grow it here…,” Lark said. “They said you can’t grow cotton anywhere north of Tennessee.”
“We thought we would try it,” Lark said, referring to neighbors and others who help him with his farming operation.
Lark was aware of an instance where cotton production had been attempted, but had failed, in Indiana. A friend of his from Greenfield had tried it around five years ago.
Cotton industry expert Mike McFatrich of Plano, Texas, said, “The farthest north I personally know that it has been grown is Leavenworth, Kan.” Growers there also acquired equipment for processing the crop.
“They had the whole infrastructure to support it…,” McFatrich said. “They did the whole shooting match.”
The cotton produced in Leavenworth was used for the manufacturing of mops.
Lark found that getting cotton seed was a difficult task, but someone pointed him to a company called Delta Pine in New Orleans.
“I called them and they sent it as a courtesy,” Lark said. “It was about 50 pounds. Fifty pounds will do about four and a half to five acres.”
Lark said Delta Pine is testing cotton in Virginia and was eager for him to try growing it in Indiana. “They wanted me to grow it and give them a follow-up on how it did here,” Lark said.
Lark’s report to Delta Pine is that the experiment went well. He credits the extended periods of hot weather experienced in Indiana this year. He said, “We would have had just as good of a yield here this year as you would have had in Alabama.”
McFatrich said cotton growers refer to yields in terms of pounds and bales. A bale amounts to 480 pounds. In terms of current market price, McFatrich said, “You’re looking at about 38 to 42 cents per pound.”
Lark estimated that if his cotton were sold, it would bring about $400 an acre, translating to about $1,600 for his entire crop.
But Lark isn’t selling the cotton. He gives it to anyone who would like to pick it as a Hoosier novelty.
“A lot of people have wanted to pick some to put in their flower arrangements,” he said.
Visitors to Lark’s farm, however, are picking only a fraction of the total yield. The rest of the field will be left as wildlife habitat for the winter.
“I’ll mow it down probably in April and replant,” Lark said.
McFatrich said Lark’s comparison of his yield to that in Alabama is reasonable, given the advent of short-season varieties of cotton over the last few years. But he also said, “This year in Alabama, they didn’t have a spectacular season.”
As for the similarity in yields, McFatrich said, “I wouldn’t expect that to be the case every year.”
McFatrich is cotton products manager for Gustafson LLC, a company that provides crop protection products. Various classifications of cotton determine how it is used, but it goes into such diverse products as shirts, tablecloths, blue jeans and rugs. McFatrich’s guess is that the variety Lark has grown is most suitable for shirts and linens—the softer products.
Despite a good yield this year, Lark doesn’t see much of a future for cotton in Indiana.
“I don’t think it’s going to ever be a viable crop choice here,” he said. Instead he sees it as a chance to help educate Hoosiers about a part of America’s history. Concerning the students and others who have visited his cotton patch, Lark said, “They received more of an appreciation for what the slaves years ago would have had to go through.”
Lark will receive visitors on his farm at least through Halloween. Signs directing visitors to the farm’s corn maze are posted on US 231 and Indiana 450. Group visits can be arranged by calling Lark at (812) 295-9555.
Photos by Scott Brunner
Shoals News, 8/28/02
Martin County residents will be treated to some enjoyable fall activities beginning next Monday, Labor Day, as the Matt Lark farm will be hosting hayride tours of the farm, as well as a 10-acre corn maze.
While Matt has built a cabin on the property, a new barn also features living quarters which he utilizes on the weekends with his three sons.
Matt Lark, who practices law on Monument Circle, in Indianapolis, bought some 600 acres of the land formerly owned by the late Tommy Crane, located in Perry township, a few years ago. Lark has been steadily developing the farm, and felt that “something special” was needed to showcase Martin County during the Fall months.
With the assistance of Jeff Lake, who was originally from Alaska, and has lived here for the past 25 years, Matt has been planting sweet corn, pumpkins, Indian corn, and sunflowers on the farm. This year, seven acres were devoted to sweet corn, which he has given away to friends.
Matt decided to do the corn maze and hayride project to promote local tourism, as well as to help out the youth group at Dover Hill Christian Union Church.
After the Catfish Festival each Summer, Martin County has not offered much in the Fall, but Lark intends to change that. He also hopes that some type of Fall Tour will be considered for the county, as was done several years ago.
This Summer, Matt planted a 10-acre field of “field corn,” and then cut a maze in the design of a sunflower with a face. The design was laid out with the help of Mike Kavanaugh, of White River Co-Op, who Lark notes was very helpful in the project.
The land was prepared by Roy Dale Grafton, a neighbor, and Dennis Walton, tenant farmer, did the planting around May 20th. The initial design for the maze was cut in mid-June, when the corn was waist high, using neighbor Steve Harrawood’s John Deere riding lawn mower. This first cut of the maze was done with the guidance of a GPS (global positioning satellite) system.
Jeff Lake was hard at work this past Sunday “trimming up” the maze with a special tractor and tiller owned by Rob Witt. The remaining corn stalks were mulched, with the equipment, in the pathways of the now 10-foot tall maze.
According to Matt, the maze will take about 45 minutes to one hour to complete, and there will be Martin County trivia questions along the route. There will also be volunteers present for anyone needing assistance in making their way through the field.
Matt has used some of the tractors from his Minneapolis-Moline collection to plant pumpkins, sunflowers, and Indian corn on the farm.
Unusual to this area, two acres of cotton will also be maturing in about two to three weeks. Lark notes that the nearest cotton grower is located about 200 miles South of Martin County, Indiana. He grew the cotton to give local children the opportunity to see what cotton looks like, since it is not normally grown in Southern Indiana.
Lark also is proud of the fact that he will have 25,000 to 30,000 pumpkins on the farm this Fall, with most of them coming on in September.
Ten acres of Indian corn planted is expected to produce about 500 bushel this year.
Ten acres of sunflowers should also be ready by the end of September. That crop, according to Matt, has been slowed this year by the lack of rainfall.
The Indian corn and the pumpkins will be available for purchase at the farm, however, some of the pumpkin crop will be donated by Matt to the St. Mary’s Children Center, and Riley Hospital, in Indianapolis.
Cost for the maze and hayride will be $5 per person, with Labor day being opening day. The farm will be available for the maze and hayrides every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, during September and October. Hours will be from 10:00 a.m. until dark, with food and refreshments also available for purchase.
Group reservations for hayrides, on any day, are possible. For information, call Jeff Lake, at 295-9555, and leave a message.
Matt is also planning several evening “lighted” maze events in October.
A separate pumpkin patch is located on another area of the farm, with a 1/2 hour hayride to that location. Pumpkins will be for sale there with everyone picking out their own choice.
Lark also owns another farm near Natchez, just off Highway 150, and notes that plans are in the making for a concert there in the fall of 2003 as a charity benefit.
The farm and maze is only a fifteen minute drive from Shoals, going through Dover Hill. It is also located just minutes from West Boggs Park, on Highway 231, North of Loogootee.
Signs will be posted on both highways for those desiring to try their luck at the corn maze, or those just wanting to see some of the real beauty Martin County has to offer this Fall.
Shoals News 9/17/03
Matt Lark's Corn Maze for 2003 will open this Friday, September 19th, and will be available for the public to try on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, thru October. This year's maze features a cowboy on a horse, and has a patriotic "God Bless The U.S.A." included.
According to Matt, Friday hours will be from 4:00 p.m. until dark. Saturday hours will be from Noon until 10:00 p.m. (bring your flashlight for after dark participation), and Sunday hours are Noon to 6:00 p.m. The admission for the maze experience is $5, and includes a hayride. Children under age 5 will be admitted free. Group rates are also available.
In addition to the corn maze, you may also view five types of popcorn, cotton, over 10 acres of sunflowers (including red ones), milo, 60 types of gourds, and 10 varieties of pumpkins, including white and red, in addition to the traditional orange. There is multi-colored broom corn growing, and several plots of soybeans for the youth to see.
Matt told The News that field trips for 3,000 school children have already been reserved, coming from as far as Vincennes and Evansville. He also anticipates several scout groups this Fall.
The maze is 15 acres, one of the largest in the United States.
Mike Kavanaugh, of White River Co-Op, has been a great asset with the crops, and Bill and Tillie Brown, as well as George and Betty Foster, are assisting at the Lark Ranch.The corn maze is located four miles Northeast of Loogootee, off Highway 231, or Northwest of Dover Hill, off Highway 450. Signs will be posted to help with directions.