Hugh comes from a farm background at a time when farming was changing from production agriculture to direct marketing. The local food movement has meant that farms like Maple Lawn Farms must reach customers and sell farm products directly. Agritourism wasn’t even a word in 1997 when he returned from Penn State with a degree in Agricultural Business Management, but Hugh has been in the industry from the early days.
Growing Seasonal Businesses Creatively
Hugh’s specialty in starting and growing seasonal businesses comes first hand. When you work with Hugh on your business or hire Hugh to speak at your convention, you are getting the real story from someone born into a seasonal farming operation.
Agriculture is notoriously challenging. Weather, biology, mechanical failures and selling into a commodity market with wildly fluctuating prices prompted Hugh to expand his perspective.
Read more below about each endeavor.
Maple Lawn Farms
Hugh started work at Maple Lawn Farms at age 5 putting empty boxes on the ‘peach filler’ in the farm’s packing house. Maple Lawn Farms is a 5th generation family farm recognized as a Pennsylvania Century Farm growing cherries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, and pumpkins for retail and pick-your-own guests. The farm market features a weekend bakery with kettle corn, fudge, pies, dumplings, and the signature apple cider donuts. The farm also grows corn and soybeans for the commercial grain market.
LEARN MORE: maplelawnfarms.com
Maize Quest Fun Park
Maize Quest’s Corn Maze & Fun Park began in the earliest days of on-farm attractions. In 1997, the corn maze was the only thing to do! The park that has grown to include over 36 attractions including giant puzzles, mazes of stone, bamboo, tile and rope, gem mining and many more. The Fun Park is the incubator for new ideas in agritourism attractions.
LEARN MORE: mazefunpark.com
Maple Lawn Winery
Maple Lawn Winery features fruit wines, such as apple, peach, blueberry, cherry, hard apple cider and brandy fortified dessert wines. The winery makes a value-added product produced from the abundance in the orchards at Maple Lawn Farms. In 2006, in partnership with a USDA Value-Added Grant, Maple Lawn Farms began pressing soft peaches into juice for local wineries. After 7 years, the local wineries offered to help start a winery on the farm. Collaboration meant more wineries on the wine tour, so more is more.
LEARN MORE: maplelawnwinery.com
Corn Maze Design Clients
In 1998, Andy Lynd from Lynd Fruit Farm in Columbus, OH visited the Maize Quest operation with Penn State extension agent Larry Yeager. As Hugh & Andy talked, the idea to create a corn maze package to leverage Hugh’s experience developed. The following year, Maize Quest helped the Lynd family create their first corn maze as a turnkey system. Annually, Maize Quest now helps over 75 farms each year create adventures for guests, and grow on-farm income.
Maize Quest Corn Maze System Highlights:
- A Maize Quest design combines a striking overhead picture with a carefully crafted maze challenge.
- Our signature games teach as they entertain. Every Maize Quest Corn Maze uses our themes to provide top quality, school-tour-ready education. The educational research work is done for you.
- The maze pathways are designed to minimize the temptation to cheat through the corn, disperse guests quickly, and to challenge your guests.
- The proven Sections by Color system adds interest, keeps guest moving, reduces vandalism, gives clues for the games and adds to the scavenger hunt system.
- Corn characters and maze artwork connect guests to the theme and provide a uniform visual experience.
- Modular design and volume printing saves money on operating costs.
LEARN MORE: mazecatalog.com
Agritourism Games & Tools
The corn maze was just the beginning. Each year brings new games and attractions, tried and tested at the Maize Quest Fun Park, then offered to a growing list of clients around the world. Each maze and game challenges guests with a puzzle and encourages exercise outdoors done together.
LEARN MORE: mazecatalog.com
Agritourism Manager Boot Camp
The two biggest challenges in seasonal businesses are staffing and marketing. Over 24 years at the Fun Park, farm and winery, the Maple Lawn team grew from a handful of part-time helpers to nearly 100 seasonal staff. After struggling for years, Hugh created a program called the Agritourism Manager Boot Camp to offer the same systems, templates and programs to similar farm operations. Now the Seasonal Manager Boot Camp expands the program’s reach to any seasonal business operator to take the struggles out of managing seasonal staff.
LEARN MORE: agritourismmanagerbootcamp.com
Event Tsunami Program
The Event Tsunami marketing program arose from the countless conversations Hugh had with operators struggling to attract guests. Most often they were thinking about marketing too late. The Event Tsunami program is designed to provide a road map to marketing your event with specific, detailed instructions. The program guides users through what to do 120 Days, 90 Days, 60 Days, and 30 Days before the event. The program works for any seasonal or limited event by making marketing a process, not a last-minute, last-ditch effort.
LEARN MORE: eventtsunami.com
Sunflower Mastermind Group – Sunflower Festivals are taking the world by storm, fueled in large part by Instagram. In 2017, inspired by a farm in Connecticut, Hugh planted 3 acres of sunflowers and 2 acres didn’t bloom on time! The other area and half was so popular it sold out of flowers and tickets. Now the Sunflower Mastermind Group annually facilitates over 40 farms through the process of planning, planting, managing, marketing and promoting local sunflower festivals to increase on-farm income. In the Mastermind Group, Hugh offers facilitated support, group knowledge sharing, and results as member skip the learning curve to hold successful festivals from Year 1.
Get started with our FREE Sunflower Festival Video Series!
The 31-Day Workforce Turnaround: One Month to a Happier You and a More Productive Crew came from the collected experiences around managing staff. While the stories come from agriculture and entertainment, the book’s principles are applicable to anyone managing a team. Hugh has been working on the farm, on a team, then leading teams throughout his life. In the process of creating the Agritourism Manager Boot Camp, Hugh collected stories, processes and life-changing anecdotes, then formatted the collection into a 31-Day program, with just 1-3 pages per day, then an exercise to practice with one’s own team. On launch, The 31-Day Workforce Turnaround rose to #1 New Release on Amazon’s Agriculture book list.
Customers Coming Out of Your Ears: 51 Quick Ways to Grow Customers & Profits Using Tools You Already Have presents 51 practical tactics to boosting sales and profits in your business. Hugh collected years of experience, plus trial and error experimentation in marketing fruit, admissions, wine, bakery products, and more and compiled it into one reference guide. Skip around the easy to read, short chapters, then get to work! This book is meant to sit on your desk for the moment you need marketing inspiration.
Every year since 2000, Hugh has traveled to conventions and meetings using his unique blend of technical knowledge, hands-on experience, and humor to deliver useful messages attendees can use. High energy sessions are paired with handouts to bring home the message. Positive, encouraging stories, and examples round out keynote presentations. Technical seminars ensure that attendees leave with work completed to implement back on the job.