Bucolic fall fun adjusts to pandemic scenario
The crossing of COVID-19 concerns and traditional autumnal enjoyment makes for a tricky 2020 pumpkin patch season.
But the season is on.
Many farms in the area have made adjustments or seen peripheral changes that ensue from the pandemic. Heightened sanitation practices and social distancing are stressed everywhere. Some activities have been curbed or canceled altogether.
"We decided not to have our pumpkin patch this year due to the virus. Hopefully next year is better," said John Heiser of Heiser Farms on Grand Island near Dayton.
"We have no activities this year as well. Only the corn maze and pumpkin patch," noted Jessica Romaine of Fir Point Farms near Aurora.
Yet, families still have the option to take country drives, visit a pumpkin patch and pick out a favorite gourd, and even enjoy a hayride or navigate through a corn maze, albeit with extended pandemic precautions in order.
The popular Bauman's Harvest Festival near Gervais is normally bursting with activity. The need for safety precautions may have crimped parts, but not all, of it. "We're going back to our roots!" That's the slogan the farm has adopted for its annual harvest festival this year.
"I think all of us are looking for some sort of normalcy, and we're going to do everything we can at Bauman's Harvest Festival to make sure that your family can have their trip out to the fall pumpkin patch," General Manager Brian Bauman said in a farm-produced video with Marketing Manager Sarah Farrell. "Obviously, we are not going to be able to do everything, but here is what we can do."
Bauman listed a number of activities, including the corn maze, $5 per person. The pumpkin patch also is open for visits, and the store and many seasonal gourmet items are available.
"We will be monitoring people throughout the pumpkin patch and the corn maze to make sure everybody can social distance while they are here," Bauman said.
"As you exit the pumpkin patch and pay for your pumpkins, you'll see the harvest market," Farrell said, adding that visitors will find "all the fall necessities there."
Those include fresh-pressed apple cider, carving supplies, jams, jellies, souvenirs and even some hard cider.
"Even though our individual food booths aren't able to open this year, inside the harvest market you'll still find all your favorite snacks: apple cider, doughnuts, caramel apples, kettle corn, hand-dipped corn dogs, fresh-cut curly fries," she added.
Of course, masks are required; another expression the farm is championing this year is "Thanks for helping keep everyone healthy."
A similar scenario unfolds out at St. Paul's Koch Family Farm.
"We have mostly everything we usually do in the fall, it's just that we are wearing masks while we do it," said farm spokeswoman Kay Koch. "The other thing that's different would be social distancing; we are asking people to maintain their social distancing."
Like Bauman's, the Koch pumpkin patch is open. The normal weekend hayrides to the patch have changed slightly in that fewer people can ride, but the farm has added an extra ride — two wagons rolling — to accommodate the situation and hopefully minimize the wait.
The farm offered free hot coffee and tea in past years, but Koch said they decided to forgo that under this year's circumstances. Field trips to the farm also have dropped off.
"There are no field trips; usually we have the fall months scheduled solid with field trips, but this is a different year," Koch added.
"We are encouraging social distancing and mask wearing especially when in our stand area. We are sanitizing high touch areas frequently. We do have sinks available also for customers to be able to frequently wash their hands." "One thing I noticed today is that I haven't been shaking my customers hands," Koch added. "I believe in the past I quite frequently shook their hands in greeting them especially someone I was just meeting. That is truly something different then before. I truly miss that human contact."
Nearby farm activities
Bauman's Farm and Garden
Where: 12989 Howell Prairie Road NE, Gervais
Autumn offerings: Corn maze, pumpkin patch and animal barn. In lieu of apple tasting, this year the farm offers apple tasting kits to take home; wide variety of fall favorites.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 pm. daily
Where: 4745 Raybell Road, St. Paul
Autumn offerings: Baby farm animals, kids' play area with slides, pedal tractors and a rope maze; hayrides on the weekend or by appointment to the pumpkin patch where you can cut your own pumpkin; variety of other fall garden vegetables.
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
French Prairie Gardens
Where: 17673 French Prairie Road, St. Paul
Autumn offerings: Pumpkin patch, pig races, mazes and a wide variety of other activities; farm animal pavilion; bakery, garden center. Reservations recommended for entering festival area, frenchprairiegardens.ticketspice.com/fall-2020.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday; outdoor activities 1-6 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Woods Farm U-Pick Patch
Where: 6435 62nd Ave. NE, Salem
Autumn offerings: Corn maze; pumpkins, squash, gourds, cornstalks, ornamental or broom corn, wheat bunches and straw.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
Where: 5504 Hazelgreen Road NE, Salem
Autumn offerings: Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay rides, farm animals, games and activities, fall produce.
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Fir Point Farms
Where: 14601 Arndt Road, Aurora
Autumn offerings: U-pick pumpkins; corn maze; apple cider and apple-cider doughnuts; Tillamook ice cream; beer garden; deli sandwiches, homemade bread and cinnamon rolls; petting zoo; nature trail; fall decorations, including corn stalks, hay bales and mini pumpkins.
Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Visit Oregon's Bounty on the Oregon Farm Bureau website to see additional listings of farms selling directly to customers statewide: oregonfb.org/oregonsbounty
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