Fifteen years ago, Kyle was a high school student, planting pumpkins and toting them to his grandmother's yard to sell, sometimes by himself and sometimes with his mom and dad, Judy and Bruce.
And a few days ago, while we were reflecting on the last few years since building the barn, the thing Kyle kept coming back to is how much his role in his business has changed in those fifteen years, and how many people have gathered around him during that time, including and especially his fantastic staff.
After the initial years, the fall season moved to the farm, and then it was Kyle, Bruce, and Judy all the time. There originally was just one counter, which Judy worked, and where you would pay for admission, get sodas or water or pre-packaged candy from a cooler, and get your corn maze maps. If you wanted to go out to the patch, Bruce would drive you. And Kyle would be there for anything else anyone needed.
As Kyle started to add more things and the crowds got bigger, Kyle and his parents couldn't do it all any longer. It was then that he hired another person to help at the counter, and the next year another, and then after a few years and adding food, five or ten more people joined the farm crew.
But in those early years on those busy weekend days, some staff would work LONG days, sometimes 12-14 hours. Kyle remembers clearly an employee who worked a long shift on Saturday, and then Sunday - without him asking - she came in early to help restock from the day before and worked a full day after that. After that weekend, Kyle realized that more staff was needed!
Today at the farm, we have a few year-round employees and almost 60 seasonal employees. We have high school kids and retirees and an amazing variety of people and we learn something from each and every one of them. Sometimes the farm is a person's first-ever job; other times they've been working their whole lives and are looking for something to keep them busy in retirement. Most of our employees have full-time jobs themselves and lend us their time at nights and on weekends. No matter their situation, every person at the farm brings something new and different and interesting to our table.
All this has come with its challenges and growth. All of us, including Kyle, have learned to communicate better. There have been pretty massive changes in how Kyle does things. Everything now has more structure and more organization. Even though people still cross train in almost everything, there are more defined roles and schedules. There is a lot less chaos...well, SOME less chaos in some ways!
More importantly than the growing pains are the amazing things that these employees have brought to the farm. Every day and every fall season, Kyle is humbled at how his staff makes things happen. His employees show up and do any kind of work he asks them to do and they stay late if they are needed to complete the job or task. They care about the farm and they care about our guests and they make our days a lot of fun.
This great team of people who enjoy the farm, are committed to taking care of guests, and are invested in people having a great time at the farm. Everyone at the farm takes care of our farm guests in the way that Kyle and his mom and dad envisioned they would be cared for, something that Kyle is always grateful for.
In the next few months, we'll continue to feature our awesome staff on this blog, because some of the most fun we have is giving credit back to these great people who have come together to make all this happen.
We've stepped away from the blog for awhile and we've missed you all very much! We found ourselves quite busy with weddings, fall season, and I (your friendly neighborhood blog writer) welcomed a new family member who's been just a little demanding of my time.
My daughter Theo is now 6 months and super excited to start hanging out at the farm (she's already been eyeing up the donuts), and I am super excited and now ready to revisit our blog space and bring you more stories from the farm. And I wanted to start with a look back on our blog - and our growth as a family farm - since we built the big red barn almost five years ago now.
The reasons behind building the new barn were primarily focused on fall season - we wanted to make guests more comfortable, to provide them with more food options, and to overall give them a better fall season experience. Building the barn was quite the undertaking, and required all of Kyle's time and effort. For a good while he was covered in construction dust and every time I came to the farm, there was something new to see. It was an exciting, but exhausting, time for everyone. And while in the thick of it we were mostly just focused on finishing what seemed like a monumental task, what came out of this red barn was something that a straightforward pumpkin farmer couldn't have even dreamed of.
In many ways, the barn is not just a barn. In the last five years, we've hosted weddings and anniversary parties and business meetings and Christmas church services. We've invited the Easter Bunny and Santa to enjoy breakfast with the kids that love them. We've enjoyed supporting community organizations with pizza nights and baked up donuts to help raise funds for schools. We've even shared in a celebration of someone's well-lived and well-loved life. The beams and posts and boards that once held up the mule barn of years ago and now clad the walls in this modern barn have been witness to so many happy days.
So this barn that was just a barn when we began this journey has become so much more significant: it's become a place for people to gather, to visit with their loved ones, to celebrate good times in their lives, to enjoy time with family and friends. It's become a community, and we feel so thankful for our small role in this family.
In this newfound community, we're humbled by the friendships we've forged along the way. We're grateful for the wonderful people we've been able to meet. When we first met some of the couples getting married in the barn, they were two young people in love and just starting their lives. Now we see them at pizza nights or during fall season, and some of them have children and others have bought houses and they are all living beautiful lives and we feel warmly and happy for the small chapter we helped write in their life story.
In this newfound community, we've worked with multiple schools and organizations - many of them for years now - and we're proud of their partnership and their effort and energy to bring good things to their groups, from football gear to abroad trips to materials for prom decorating. We are thrilled to see our sweet little donuts make so many people happy but also to help make such a positive change for these organizations.
In this newfound community, we've seen families - sometimes for years and years - visit our fall season and fully give themselves to their children's happiness, to watch them experience feeding goats from their hands, to hold them securely as they whiz down the zip line, to help them problem-solve as they find their way out of the maze. We see only happy faces smushed up against the window to watch us make donuts; we see only smiles as the pigs oink or the chickens chase bugs; we hear only laughs as families lunch in the red barn.
And in this past five years, I have started my own family and if I didn't understand the magic of fall season before, I do now as I watch my first child ride the kiddie train, scamper around the pumpkin patch, and devour a donut in one minute flat. This community is one that I not only work for, but belong to, and as much as I try to describe the joy I feel for the experiences I have at the farm and for the people I now get to call my family, I feel I'll always fall short. It is a wonderful place.
In just countless ways, we are so proud and grateful of how we've been able to influence good change and bring happiness to people. Here at the farm, we don't bring the family, we don't bring the love, we don't even bring the fun. You do that. You make it real. But we love that there is a place for you to do this, and we love that the farm is here for you.
We love that you choose us for your happy days. We love that you are here. And we hope to see you soon.
Fun on the farm...in blog form!