Fall weekends at Freeman's Farm will look a little different in 2020, but visitors still are welcome to celebrate the season at the long-standing family farm in Genoa Township.
Fewer activities will be available in the fall starting Saturday, Sept. 19, but hayrides, pumpkins, kettle corn and the farm market all will take place, with guidelines to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
"We definitely had to make some changes," said Lois Freeman, who lives on and operates the farm with her husband, Bill.
Lois Freeman cited guidance from health officials, including the Delaware General Health District, and "our own comfort" with COVID-19.
"We took all of that into consideration in trying to make sure we could have a safe experience for everyone," she said.
In its 32nd year of offering public activities in the fall, Freeman's Farm, 6142 Lewis Center Road, is found in a more suburban setting than many farms that hold similar seasonal events and activities. This affected decisions on how to operate, given the pandemic, Freeman said, but also provides an opportunity.
"Being closer to a larger population, there's a need for more agriculture exposure to the community," she said. "People who are moving out here don't know what the area used to be like. The farm allows folks to get an idea of that, to give children who don't know what a farm looks like to get a sense of that heritage and tradition that's been lost."
Ohio Farm Bureau spokesman Ty Higgins said the growth of agritourism has provided many family farms across Ohio needed income and stability, but the benefits go beyond agriculture's bottom line.
"These non-traditional business opportunities are a very useful way to share with consumers, who may be generations removed from the farm, what today's agriculture looks like," Higgins said.
Freeman said the family felt it was important to continue to operate in some capacity in fall, if only to provide "some semblance of normalcy for people who want to continue family traditions."
"People are just excited to be out, I think," she said.
Freeman said the decision to open was affected by financial considerations, as well.
While the farm is not a large, working production farm, it does operate a year-round market. However, the fall season generates the largest percentage of the farm's revenue for the year, Freeman said.
Bill Freeman also drives a school bus, while Lois Freeman works as a substitute teacher, allowing her to continue to manage the farm and market.
Popular activities such as a petting zoo of farm animals and scarecrow decorating are not being held this year, Lois Freeman said, due to concerns over the ability to remain socially distant.
"We employ a lot of high school students," she said. "We didn't want to put them in the position of having to manage those situations. We didn't want to put our employees or visitors at risk."
Visitors will be asked to maintain social distance and to wear masks in the market and in other areas where they might be in close contact with other guests, Freeman said.
The market will stock pumpkins, gourds, apples, maple syrup, candy and seasonal decor, including corn shocks, Freeman said.
She said she makes every effort to source these items locally.
For the latest on activities at Freeman's Farm in the fall, go to facebook.com/freemanfarm.