The Krause family is a very competitive group. Growing up there was always a board game, basketball game, card game or some type of game where there is a clear winner and loser at the end. Sometimes we shook hands and sometimes not. Our competitive spirt was not limited to games but spilt over into our work. We found out who could dig a hole 2 ft deep the fastest. Which one of us could get the hay bale to the top of the load without losing it. Who could stack the highest load of pumpkins without it falling off on the way to the barn. Whom was the fastest corn picker….(me). The list could go on and on.
As we finish up our fall harvest festival we have time to reflect on our season and see what worked and what did not work. It is a time to plan for next year and see what we can add to make our guests experience better. It is always a challenge to decide what to include because the amount of time it takes to see the effects of what some of the things we decide to implement. When we decide to plant more apple trees for instance it takes a good 5 years before they start to produce. If we decide to plant raspberries to increase our u-pick berry business that is a good 3 years. Adding more strawberries would take 2 years. These are all methodically thought thru and planned very carefully.
Other aspects of decision making are made that can see the impact right away. I think these are where the “Play or the Year” came from and our competitive spirt comes out. Each year we look back and decide what we did that made the biggest impact on the farm and call it “Play of the Year”. It could be something very simple like adding front weights to our tractor to allow us to plow a smoother field which was given 8 years ago.(congratulations Farmer Ben play of the year).This sounds like not a big deal but the amount of tractor time it saved was incredible. The play could also be adding a new attraction such as the jumping pillows 6 years ago (congratulations to myself for that play of the year). Our employees have also been instrumental in a few plays of the year. Such as Farmer Liz who showed us how useful a blower can be instead of sweeping for hours upon hours for our orchard weddings (congratulations Liz play of the year). Or Yaher our young employee whom revolutionized the way we cut out the Washington State Corn Maze 10 years ago. These are all things that made life on the farm much easier.
This year as we look back the decision has to be made, what was our Play of the Year?
It was definitely not a normal year. We love this farm and have invested so much into it through the years. Watching families come and spend quality time with each other is the reason we do what we do. I missed all the school field trips, our bakery and having all our fun farm activities available for our guests to enjoy. With the amount of time to get ready this year we did not add anything nor did we change much of anything. Although I love my job and we always have fun working such a unique, challenging career, I am not going to lie the stress level was high though the season. It was about quarter way through the season when I was worried about everything, short with everyone and trying to keep it together that my wise old father Farmer Ben pulled out the play of the year. I was working on something I could not figure out and about ready to literally breakdown when he said four words I really needed and that was “relax and have faith”. It was not buying a new piece of equipment nor adding some great new activity but it was a state of mind we all needed. So as the season progressed with the facemasks, wet weather and managing all the Covid regulations I just remembered to relax and have faith. Well played Farmer Ben….well played.
This year has truly been a challenge for all of us and pumpkin patches are no exception. About a month ago we here at Swans Trail Farms had no idea if we were going to be able to operate much like many businesses in the state of Washington. It was not until a few days ago we found out that we could have guests out to the farm and the reason this happened was because of community.
Our family was not a “Snohomish Valley Farm Family” which many farms in the Valley date back 5 generations or more. My parents were both teachers and decided one day at the age of 31 and 28 with three kids they were going to be dairy farmers. Those first few years were rough and held many challenges. My dad always said that he could not made it without help from his fellow dairymen in the Snohomish Valley. Dairy farmers are a tight knit community and when you see another farmer suffering you drop everything and help that other guy out. I grew up knowing if a piece of equipment broke or the milk price fell there would be a farm in the Snohomish Valley to lend a hand.
As time went on we had many more tough times in the Dairy Industry and made the difficult decision to sell our cows. It was 1997 and we had a small yet promising pumpkin patch that we felt we could make work. Other then one other farm soon after selling our cows many of our fellow dairy farmers followed suit by selling and starting their own pumpkin patches. Now to date there is a total of 7 pumpkin patches within 15 mins of each other. Many think we would be competitors but we all consider ourselves comrades. The farms in the valley’s attitude never has changed and we are closer now then when we were milking cows.
Prior to the State announcing limitations to our operations we were meeting this summer and developing a plan to open in a safe and secure way. As we have for years we worked together, making sure we had all the right documentation and contacted the right people. We also discussed the safest way to operate during a pandemic; what to cut, what to keep. With the leadership of Linda Neunzig from the Snohomish County Ag Dept. we were able to organize and get the state to change its original decisions.
This would have never happened with just one of us. Although we did not always agree, it took all of us to show the state we can operate together in a safe manner. Just like the dairy days when something tough happens in the Snohomish Valley we rally around each other.
I can’t help to think as the craziness of this world increases and the division gets wider just know that there are still small and large pockets of communities around you working together.
Happy Fall!!! Farmer Nate