Ten years ago, Cathy Thomasson and her family expanded their Washington dairy farm, not by adding more cows or facilities, but by growing pumpkins.
While pumpkins and dairy cows may seem like an odd mix, the Thomassons said the combination allows them to reconnect people with agriculture and share their story of what it takes to produce food each day.
The farm opens its doors for an October-long, Halloween-themed experience that is much more than a chance for people to stroll through six acres in search of the perfect pumpkin. The Thomassons added a corn maze, a laser tag area (among the hay bales, of course), tractor train rides and a corn bin where kids can romp through hordes of kernels.
The experience also includes an opportunity to talk dairy, and the family established six stations designed to educate visitors about various aspects of dairy farming. Anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 visitors arrive to the farm each October, including many school children on field trips.
Connecting people to farm life and the true source of dairy products is worth the 11 months of planning it takes to assure the event runs smoothly, Thomasson said. She finds speaking with people who are visiting their first farm, or reconnecting with farm life after many years, to be especially rewarding.
“It’s about getting people on a farm and getting some dirt on their feet,” she said. “I always love to see someone walk into our hay barn and watch them breathe it in. The smell of hay may rekindle a memory they had as a kid.”
Thomasson also enjoys hearing people say their dairy farm has become an annual stop on their calendar.
“My husband Tim said he’s been farming for 45 years and never once has someone said ‘thanks for farming.’ That’s not why he farms, but what’s amazing is how many people say thanks for letting them visit our farm with their kids,” Thomasson said. “That’s why we do this. It’s very rewarding to have people feel good about what is going on at farms today.”