Holladay • A $5,000 grant will go a long way in helping Kara Lewis and her family preserve their 100-year-old farm.
The co-owner of Glen Ray’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Spanish Fork said the money — which she won this week in a statewide competition for women-owned businesses — will be used to create an outdoor classroom to teach children about agriculture and where food is grown and raised.
In January, 115 female business owners submitted applications for the grant competition, sponsored by the Women’s Business Center of Utah, the Women’s Networking Group and Utah’s Own.
During regional and semifinal competitions in February and March, the contestants were narrowed to six finalists. On Wednesday, they presented three-minute pitches to judges, during the one-day Women’s Entrepreneurial Conference at the Holladay City Hall. During their pitches, contestants focused on how they would spend the $5,000 grand prize and their potential for growth.
Claudia Hinojosa, owner of Green Janitorial Services in Magna, placed second and was awarded a $2,250 grant. The money will pay Hinojosa purchase new equipment and transition from a residential housecleaning service to commercial.
Amber Murray, of See Your Strength located in St. George, placed third, earning $1,750. The funds will help her expand her company that sells mirror decals with positive and encouraging messages.
In all, $19,500 in grants — some just $250 — were awarded to 23 women-led companies. Even a small grant "can make a big impact.” said Karin Palle, executive director of the Utah Women’s Networking Group.
Larsen said she plans to buy a large outdoor tent to create her outdoor classroom. The space will allow her to offer field trips to area schools. Instead of earning $120 a day, the farm could bring in $960 a day, she told the judges.
In addition to school field trips, Lewis said a covered area would allow the family to offer activities — including Easter egg hunts, summer farm camps and even holiday and corporate events — year-round.
Lewis said her family has been farming in Utah County for six generations and more than 100 years. Last fall — like other struggling farmers — the family offered a seven-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch, hay bale slides and other activities for six weeks, grossing nearly $115,000.
The business is named for Lewis’ grandfather, Glen Ray Larsen, a well-known character in Utah County who grew sweet corn and drove a baby-blue cattle truck with an “EET BEEF” license plate.
Grandpa Larsen was known as the “corn fairy” to family and friends. He would get up before dawn to leave bags of corn on his neighbors’ porches. The corn maze’s logo features a character of Larsen with corn husks as wings.
Lewis said family members get letters and telephone calls from companies every day interested in developing the farmland. But they are resisting, she said. “This is our attempt to save the family farm.”