Rader’s season is over; what happens now?

Rader Family Farms prepares for the off-season

The sign to Rader Family Farms - a popular fall destination in McLean County.

Photo Courtesy of Rader Family Farms, via Instagram: @raderfamilyfarms

The sign to Rader Family Farms – a popular fall destination in McLean County.

Rader Family Farms closed to the public on October 29 after their annual 2-month run of corn mazes, pumpkin picking, hay rides and all-around agritainment. But when the fun stops for the public, the real work begins for the Raders as they prepare for the off-season. 

Since 2009, Rader Farms has been a staple in the Bloomington/Normal Area: every year, over 50,000 people visit the farm and participate in the family-friendly activities, like the famous corn maze, the popular jumping pillow, the monstrous tire tower, and apple blasting cannons that the site features.

“They have something new each year for my family to enjoy,” Mrs. Nicole Maurer stated, an annual visitor of the farm. Not to mention the fresh food that is sold on the farm each morning, which Maurer admires.

To keep guests satisfied and coming back, Raders employs 120 part-time seasonal workers to keep the farm running during the on-season. Not only do their guests return year after year, but over 50% of past employees return the following season to work on the farm.

Mollie Brothers, junior, worked in the pumpkin patch and the produce area to keep the products clean and organized so customers could easily pick their pumpkins and gourds.

“My time was well spent and I would enjoy going back,” Brothers said on her plans to return to work at the farm next year.

But when the farm closed to the public at the end of October, a majority of the staff like Brothers no longer have access to the property. When the work ends for those part-time employees – the work is only just beginning for some.

Adam Rader is one of those whose season truly starts when October ends.

According to Rader, a Rader family member, everything that was displayed on the farm is in some way recycled, either to use again next year or donated to other farms in the area. The giant metal cylinders used as “Rat Rollers” and the tracks they roll on will be stored away until next year. But the haystacks from the kid-favorite hay towers are given to a local dairy farm “down the street” to used as bedding for the dairy farm’s cattle.

The pumpkins on the farm remain sellable and are placed in the barn where guests can still visit and purchase them through November. So while Rader’s may close its family-friendly activities down, it still sells its produce – pumpkins and gourds are popular Thanksgiving and fall decorations even after Halloween.

The corn that creates the corn maze is harvested after the public-season is over just as if Rader’s was any other farm, but the process is a little more complicated. In order to build a corn maze, the corn must be cross-hatched – allowing it to grow denser making it a little trickier to harvest. Without this process, the maze would lack its “walls.”

The fun comes at a cost since the act of harvesting the cross-hatched corn “takes a bit longer than the normal process of harvesting corn because the corn does not shake off the stock as easily,” Adam Rader stated.

The animals in the farm’s petting zoo either visit from other local farms or from a separate Radar property down the road. The same animals return every year, so visitors can keep coming back and seeing their favorites from previous years.   

Financially, the farm does not earn income during the 10-month off-season, therefore, it is essential that during the on-months of September and October, the farm meets a certain economic goal.

Weather plays a crucial role in if Rader Family Farms meets that financial goal. Rader said that weather can “make or break the businesses” for the whole on-season of the farm. One cold or rainy weekend can completely shut down the business that sees most of its guests on Saturdays and Sundays. An unseasonably cold or wet fall can mean substantially decrease the farm’s profits.

Yet, these are the same issues any other farmer in the business faces during harvesting season: rainfall and temperature.

Nice weather, good service, and plenty of opportunities for fun have made Rader Family Farms popularity enough that they are not worried. Rader mentioned that it is possible that Rader Family Farms could possibly remain open longer and  even “go into Christmas in the future.”  


Rader Family Farms is located at 1238 Ropp Rd. in Normal, their season runs from September through October. For more information visit their website at www.raderfamilyfarms.com.