Many businesses are currently struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local pumpkin farm, The Patch, is staying afloat with the approval of Gov. Jay Inslee and every department in Kittitas County.
Some attractions had to be taken away, due to COVID, such as the haunted corn maze and the corn pit. The play area was able to stay because the hard surfaces can easily be wiped down. Other activities that can be sanitized were also allowed to stay.
The play area and hayrides require the purchase of a wristband. The cost is $10 per child and $8 per adult. Owner Hilary Huffman hopes this will limit the amount of people who come, so it is not overcrowded and everyone can social distance.
Huffman also said they are trying to limit the amount of people who enter at a time by reducing the parking lot space.
“What makes us nervous is we’ve got to do it right and we’ve got to keep people safe,” Huffman said. “If we don’t then we’re probably not going to be allowed to remain open for the entire season.”
This year, the staff was increased by 20% in order to comply with sanitizing measures. A bigger staff allows them to go around and sanitize every 30 minutes.
According to Huffman, she had to budget an additional $4,000 for personal protective equipment and extra labor. This drove The Patch further away from their financial goal, but Huffman remains hopeful.
“We think we can probably offset that by hoping to see more people who just want to get out and have a slice of normalcy,” Huffman said.
Each year, the farm receives an operating loan from the United States Department of Agriculture. This loan helps the farm pay for fertilizer and the overall labor that goes into planting. According to Huffman, they spend the loan money before September each year. Now, they are trying to make enough in profits to pay the loan back.
In previous years, the pumpkin farm was only open two days a week. This year, they decided to open a third day.
“Because of COVID, we wanted to add a hump day, mid-week break for families,” Huffman said. “If they are particularly concerned about social distancing, that Wednesday would really be their day because we expect a lot smaller crowds.”