With Labor Day in the rearview mirror and autumn around the corner, Greenvillians may want to get outside to pick apples or search for the perfect pumpkin. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, many may wonder what to expect.
In Hendersonville, North Carolina, is Justus Orchard. While the orchard has been open since July 1, the staff is still adapting to life in a socially distanced world.
“We always open for blackberries [on] July 1,” said Margo Justus of Justus Orchard. “That was pretty easy. It’s all outdoors. We were asking people to sanitize, take baskets home with them, and wear masks when near people. When we opened the bakeries on the weekends, we had to do more, such as designate an entrance and exit and put sanitizers everywhere. It’s busy, but it’s manageable.”
The orchard has also started giving customers the option to pick their own apples or buy them prepackaged. Visitors wanting to pick apples may pay outside in a shed, pick a box to load the apples into and then put the box in the car when they are done. By using boxes instead of baskets, the customers don’t have to come inside to bag the apples, Justus said.
Like Justus Orchard, Sky Top Orchard, which opened on Aug. 1, has eliminated the need to bag apples when visitors return from picking apples.
“We are also allowing people to keep their wooden baskets they use to pick apples in this year instead of transferring them to a plastic bag, eliminating additional contact and the reuse of baskets and allowing people to only have to enter the fruit stand once, pick their apples and leave,” said Lindsey Butler of Sky Top Orchard. “In order to adapt to COVID-19, we have taken extra precautions around the farm. All our employees wear masks at all times, [and] we have asked anyone entering the fruit stand or on hayrides to wear a mask. We have plexiglass dividers at our checkout points.”
While both orchards have reported business staying busy since opening, other farms like Stewart Farms and Denver Downs Farm have seen an impact on their business due to COVID-19.
Stewart Farms, which opens for the fall on Sept. 26, has had to switch its hours due to the pandemic.
“We have left the option available to open at 10 a.m. on Fridays, since our field trip program has been cut drastically due to COVID-19,” Angie Broome of Stewart Farms said. “Otherwise, our regular fall hours for retail will be Fridays 4-10 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sundays 1-7 p.m.”
In order to provide social distancing, Stewart Farms has added a third wagon for the wagon ride and rerouted the attraction to increase room for the queue, and created a cash-only station for checkout to allow guests to pay without entering the farm market. They have also established an entrance and exit for their pumpkin patch.
While Stewart Farms has felt a negative impact in its field trip program, Denver Downs felt a financial pinch early in the pandemic.
“Due to quarantine in the spring, we had to cancel our Easter egg hunt, Spring Break Farm Fun Weeks and our Spring Music Festival,” said Denver Downs Farms co-owner and special events coordinator Catherine Garrison Davis. “This summer we were planning to have some concerts and another music festival, and those, unfortunately, had to be canceled.”
As the farm prepares to reopen for the fall on Sept. 26, Davis says staff will be screening visitors by asking questions and performing temperature checks as they come through the gates. Guests will also be asked to either wash their hands or use hand sanitizer once inside.
Denver Downs is still planning to have its corn maze, pumpkin patch, live music, sunflowers and zinnias. No hayrides will be available due to social distancing requirements.