Pumpkin picking, corn mazes and apple cider emerge every year in the month of October. These festivities are only a small selection of what Stoney Ridge Farms’ return will bring back to the Whatcom County community.
At 2092 Van Dyke Rd. in Everson, Washington, Debi and Derek Gavette, owners of Stoney Ridge Farm, are getting ready to reopen their doors after being closed for the last two fall seasons.
Debi Gavette opened the front door to their farmhouse on a brisk fall afternoon in early October. She sat on a chair next to a fireplace decorated with pumpkins to discuss the farm’s reopening for fall festivities.
She said in 2015, after hosting 25 years of fall events, the farm had their last fall season.
In the past, she, Derek and their five kids were responsible for fulfilling all of the growing demands of the farm while working hard to show their livestock competitively.
However, Gavette said when the couple’s kids grew up and left home, the large fall harvest became too overwhelming for just her and Derek.
“The last two years we have gone ‘round and ‘round both agreeing we need to reopen, but trying to figure out how to do what we love and not get tired,” she said.
Gavette said during their two year break from the fall season, her family has been able to do new, fun things together. During their break, they traveled to Ireland to visit their daughter, went fishing in Alaska and went camping for the first time in years.
She said they had the luxury of taking some time off that most businesses don’t have, allowing them to look back and think about what was negative, positive and their future priorities.
Gavette isn’t used to taking breaks. She said in the past, it was normal for herself, her cousins and her aunts to make 450 pies over a fall season with the apple slicing and crust done by hand.
“People would say ‘this looks like homemade pie.’ Well that’s because it was homemade pie,” Gavette said. “But it never made us any money and it was a lot of work.”
Gavette explained that despite the extra work from previous seasons, some of their best memories involve the people who came to enjoy the farm.
Gavette said seeing a child lift a pumpkin when their parent thinks they can’t, is one of the joys of her job.
She reflected on a time when her husband and herself were in their apple orchard, watching a boy on his father’s shoulders picking his first apple.
“This little boy picks an apple and takes a big bite and he turns and he sees us and he had this great big grin with juice running down his chin,” Gavette said, smiling. “It’s worth all the time we spend out here to witness the experiences of others.”
Gavette said closing the farm was an emotional experience. She said on their last day of business, people thanked them for all the Stoney Ridge memories they’d made over the years.
“I went and walked down and around the fields by myself thinking ‘What have I done? Shutting down because we’re tired?’” she said. “So I said to my husband that night, ‘Don’t sell anything, let’s just wait, is there another way we can do it?’”
After taking two fall seasons off and missing it, Gavette said her family came to the decision that they wanted Stoney Ridge Farm to be a part of the community without it running their lives.
Gavette said the difference is, now they’re in the house by 7 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.
This year pies, hotdogs and lattes have been replaced with simpler provisions like fresh pressed hot cider, coffee, kettle corn and a bbq food truck available on Saturdays. Allowing them to focus on family and their harvest.
Gavette said the layout of festivities will be smaller than what visitors from the past might remember. All activities will be condensed in the lower part of the farm in a custom-built red barn, next to the pumpkin patch, apple orchard and corn maze.
According to the Stoney Ridge Farm website, attendees can expect farm animals, wagon rides, corn mazes, produce and treats such as their famous cider and pumpkin donuts. Admission is $3.
Apart from extending their farm to tourism, Gavette said she’s most proud of the school tours that have returned to the farm for October, since she previously taught children for 20 years about farm life and plant identification.
For Gavette, it’s important that kids learn about agriculture and the outdoors, and at Stoney Ridge she’s able to do just that.
She said places like Stoney Ridge provide unique and valuable educational experiences that aren’t possible in the classroom. She said without them, school children wouldn’t be able to see crops or farm animals in person, or learn to identify plants like raspberries or potatoes.
“In our county, agriculture is a huge base to our economy,” she said. “Kids don’t understand that. I just want them to start out simple, to see what’s involved.”
Since announcing their fall 2018 return, fans on Facebook and the community have expressed their excitement for the farm to reopen.
Jodi Greene, a hair stylist at Honey Salon in downtown Bellingham, said she was disappointed she couldn’t take her son to Stoney Ridge Farm last fall so she’s looking forward to the reopening this year.
Greene said she first visited the farm when she went Christmas tree cutting, another festivity Stoney Ridge offers during the month of December.
However, community members sharing their enthusiasm aren’t the only ones excited about pumpkins.
Back at the farm, next to the pumpkin field and the red barn, Debi’s husband Derek sat on his tractor, working to get the farm ready for next week’s opening.
“My husband loves growing pumpkins, he loves it and missed it,” she said.
She said Derek is an agronomist, also known as a plant and soil scientist, who works in agriculture every day, then comes home and farms and looks at it as an honor.
“To get to put stuff out there and press cider for people, we take that really seriously,” Gavette said. “ I think that’s why it may seem different than other places. It’s not just our business, it’s our home, it’s where we live.”
Stoney Ridge Farm will be open the last three weeks of October on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.