Kyles’ ‘Field of Terror’ scares up good profits
EAST WINDSOR — When farm couple Kevin and Sharon Kyle found their farm in 2003, they didn’t know much about agritourism, or even the subculture of agritourism that involves scary entertainment on farms.
But when they purchased their land through an State Agriculture Development Committee auction, a friend, Rich Osborne in Cream Ridge, was retiring from Sunny Acres and selling his mailing list from his pumpkin picking/hayride business.
“Mostly it was pumpkin picking we did back then, and a lot of school tours,” said Sharon Kyle on Oct. 31.
Using his mailing list and some of their own flyers, the Kyle’s put out the word their farm was open for fall tourism, and over ensuing seasons, Kyle Family Farms has carved a niche for itself with its “Field of Terror.”
“We did a Halloween party in 2003 and people said, ‘You should do this,’” Sharon said while her husband was off selling produce at Englishtown Auction.
“The first year we did a corn maze and it took off from there,” she added.
“We found out about these scary haunt conventions and began attending them to learn more about what to do, how to do marketing, get sponsors, advertise and how to do a website, we knew about growing vegetables and we know how to be farmers but we didn’t really know a whole lot about agritourism,” Sharon said.
Since 2004, the farm now employs a bevy of freelance actors, wearing masks and costumes, who spring up out of corn fields and inside a haunted house structure and patrons can choose from a “package plan” that includes a hayride, a paintball fight, a corn maze and the haunted house tour.
“The first few years we did ‘Field of Terror,’ we’d put people on a hayride tractor, they’d walk through the corn field and another tractor would pick them up and take them back up here to the front,” Sharon said.
Back then, they charged $10 per person. Now, they charge $11.50 per person for the full package of four activities.
Kyle Family Farms runs its fall agritourism and haunted activities every year beginning in mid-September with walks through the corn maze. By late October, the itinerary also includes horror-related activities leading up to Halloween.
“When you’re getting closer to Halloween, the corn maze is a little less scary, because it’s harder to hide in brown corn that has been hit by frost already,” she said.
After Nov. 1, “we pick up all the electric extension cords and loose pieces of fence and wood in the fields and then Kevin goes in there with the combine and cuts the feed corn down and we sell it.”
This year, all patrons were required to wear face masks and their temperatures were checked at the gate upon entry. Customers enter through the Kyle Family Farm retail store.
“In the haunt industry, we call the weekend before Halloween is our Black Friday,” she said. “That’s when you know you’ve made up your costs and made your money. Last weekend was great for us, we had great weather and we’re very thankful for all the people who came through here.”
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