“You don’t want it to take more than 45 minutes
to go through the maze,” he says. The area also
features a petting zoo, hay maze, pumpkin cannon,
corn pit, jump house, and other activities for
children. There is also a restaurant that offers food
Hemric and his wife, Jennifer, operate the maze
with partners Jason and Lori Walker. They sell
advertising rights for companies or organizations
to put their logos on the maze, income that helps
offset the costs of surveying the maze. “Our hope
is that children come to the maze to have fun, and
leave knowing more about agriculture,” Hemric
OTHER AGRITOURISM EVENTS
At the maze site on the Saturday before Easter
Sunday, he hires a helicopter to drop plastic eggs
for children to pick up. He also hosts a community
July 4th celebration, and has hosted fundraisers for
schools and for a child needing a kidney transplant.
Hemric also worked closely with the North Carolina Farm
Bureau Federation to secure liability insurance coverage for
agritourism operations in the state.
Drought tends to hit in his area during July, so he plants
later maturing Group V soybeans to help limit drought damage.
Soybeans are marketed through forward contracts that he
typically signs in June or July each year, with delivery of the
soybeans during November and December. He works with his
father, Gilbert Hemric, in hay production.
As a youngster, Van remembers his first job on the farm was
picking up dead chickens in his father’s broiler houses.
His father has a keen eye for picking out good bulls, and Van
says, “We keep 36 bulls in the pastures for the 601 cows; the rest
of the bulls are young replacements that we buy as yearlings. We
put them with the cows when they are 2-1/2 years old and well-
adjusted to grazing.”
The cattle are spread out on pastures in four counties, which
makes it impractical to use a controlled breeding season or
Van groups calves by weight, and backgrounds them 45 days
before selling them through the Hodge Livestock Network. The
cattle are sold directly off the farm after they are videotaped and
bidding is conducted via telephone conference call.
His cattle management is GAP (Good Agricultural Practices)-certified, which enabled him to sell beef to the Whole Foods
grocery firm during 2016 and 2017.
POULTR Y OPERATION
Hemric raises broiler layers and collects their eggs
for Mountaire Farms. The eggs are hatched out and
raised as broilers on other farms.
One of his chicken houses burned last year,
but he has rebuilt it. Each house holds about
10,000 birds, including about 800 roosters.
Layers arrive at 22 weeks of age, and stay on
the farm, laying eggs, until they reach about 64
Chicken litter is a valuable resource, Hemric
says. He uses it to fertilize pastures and hay
fields, applying 1-1/2 tons to 2 tons per acre.
He and his employees also clean out litter from
chicken houses owned by other producers.
“We do this in exchange for their litter,” he says.
“It would cost $100,000 to buy an equivalent
amount of fertilizer. We wouldn’t be in the cattle
business if it wasn’t for chicken litter.”
He uses a number of conservation practices,
such as composters and dry stacks, for litter storage. He has
fenced out creeks, installed wells and cattle watering facilities,
uses field borders and grassed waterways, and rotates tobacco
with soybeans to conserve soil.
FAMILY AC TIVITIES
Hemric serves on the Yadkin County Farm Bureau, Soil & Water
Conservation District, and voluntary agricultural district boards.
He is on a bank advisory board, is active in Union Baptist Church,
and serves on the Poultry Advisory Committee of the North
Carolina Farm Bureau Federation.
In addition to working at the corn maze, wife Jennifer works
off farm as executive director of New Hope Pregnancy Care, a
non-profit organization that helps women cope with unplanned
Their daughter, Ashton, is a recent college graduate, and son
Colton works full time on the farm. Colton also has some tobacco
and cattle of his own. Van and Jennifer are custodial parents for
two young children, a brother and sister, Kaleb and Kylie, who
became a part of their family as a result of Jennifer’s work at New
Hope Pregnancy Care.
Audrey Brown, director of field services with North Carolina
Farm Bureau, coordinates the Farmer of the Year award in the
state. Hemric was nominated for the honor by Callie Carson, North
Carolina Farm Bureau field representative. Carson appreciates
what Hemric does for Farm Bureau and admires how his food
safety practices allow him to sell beef to Whole Foods.
Hemric was nominated for the honor by Callie Carson.