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.
Fun on the farm...in blog form!