Six generations of the Ort family have grown delicious fruits and vegetables on 400 acres at Ort Farms in Long Valley, New Jersey for more than a century. In recent years, Ort Farms has expanded its enterprise to include a popular fall festival including a corn maze. After Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey in 2013, Ort Farms made its corn maze theme “Stronger than the Storm,” and began working with local nonprofit organizations as beneficiaries.
“This year we really wanted to do something for the military,” explained Nicole Ort Moke. “We’ve had a couple veterans who’ve worked with us. Some of them had post-traumatic stress disorder. I know they had a really positive experience working on the farm and it helped their mental health. When you’re working in and connecting with nature, being outside, and visually seeing the fruits of your labor, you get a sense of personal satisfaction. I was really pleased with how the work experience here positively affected those veterans.”
Working with the veterans inspired Nicole to cultivate a relationship with a military service organization. Nicole’s cousin is friends with NMCRS Visiting Nurse Patty Kotora, so Nicole contacted Patty to find out if the Society would be willing to partner with Ort Farms.
“Even the design of the maze features a salute to veterans,” Nicole said. “You can see it when you look at the maze from above.” Ort Farms worked with a company called The Corn Maze Guy to design and create the path through the maze, which follows the shape of a service member saluting and the words THANK YOU.
The cost to enter the maze was $6 and was free for veterans. This year, Ort Farms will be donating a portion of the fee to NMCRS and a local organization called Operation Chill Out that serves homeless veterans. Last year the corn maze raised $5,000 for charities – Nicole hopes to contribute that much again this year. The maze opened Labor Day and ran until November 4.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso