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News >  Agriculture

Green Bluff Growers geared to share apples, pumpkins and cider at annual fall festival

Michelle Haustein, on left, and her friend Angela Petersen gather a wagon-load each of pumpkins, gourds and decorative dried corn as the make their way through the colorful displays at Sunset Orchard at Green Bluff, Friday,Oct. 1, 2021.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Michelle Haustein, on left, and her friend Angela Petersen gather a wagon-load each of pumpkins, gourds and decorative dried corn as the make their way through the colorful displays at Sunset Orchard at Green Bluff, Friday,Oct. 1, 2021. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Fall festival fun in the Green Bluff farming community near Mead was a key part of Lexi Westover’s childhood experience.

Specifically, Westover said she and her family frequented Siemers Farm many times starting when she was very young. She fell in love with farming – so much so that she sought to make it her career sometime after graduating Mt. Spokane High School in 2016.

This year, Westover – along with her father, Bert – will experience a Green Bluff fall festival on a different side of the corn maze, so to speak: as the new owners of Siemers Farm.

The Westovers purchased Siemers Farm last November, Lexi Westover said, to join the ranks of the Green Bluff Growers, a community of farms and agricultural businesses. The fall festival season for Siemers, Beck’s Harvest House, Walters’ Fruit Ranch and other participating growers has traditionally run from late September through October.

“It’s really cool seeing all that goes into it,” Lexi Westover said. “As a customer, you can see what’s in front of you. You don’t get to see everything that has to go into it – not even the weeks and months of preparation for six weeks of a fall festival.”

In addition to the new ownership, this year will also mark a return to the fall festival scene for Siemers Farm, which decided not to open last year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The new additions for this year’s festival arrived with the Westovers. Siemers, 11125 E. Day Mt. Spokane Road, opened a pizzeria in April, while Lexi Westover said the farm partnered with Sean Weeks, owner of Thomas Clare Cellars and Inland Cider Mill, to produce hard cider with Siemers produce and host weekend wine tastings. The partnership has produced cherry, strawberry rhubarb and apricot cider varieties.

Lexi Westover said she and her father eyed Siemers Farm as the business went on and off the market for several years.

“Last year, we just decided to make the jump and go into business together,” she said.

The Siemers Farm traditional fall festival mainstays are still around, Lexi Westover said.

That includes the corn maze, craft and food vendors, pumpkin donuts, a pumpkin patch and tractor rides. There’s also live music Saturdays and Sundays, and while Fridays and Mondays are available for preregistered school field trips.

“We’re farmers, so in one aspect, we want it to rain to water our crops,” Lexi Westover said, “but if it rains, we get less people up here. It’s just a lot to take in the first year as new farmers and new business owners with this kind of business.”

Other than for the school field trips, Siemers is not requiring reservations for attending fall festival activities.

Reservation also aren’t needed at Hidden Acres Orchard, at 16802 N. Applewood Lane on account of the farm’s relatively “tucked away” location compared to some of the other Green Bluff Growers, said owner Nick Simchuk.

Simchuk said the farm is hoping to finish the year strong, weather providing, as this season has been one of Hidden Acres’ best in terms of overall income.

“Last year, we had our best year that we ever had in direct relation to COVID,” he said. “For one, there wasn’t many options for entertainment last fall, and then two, for the first time ever, people went to the grocery store and couldn’t find what they wanted when they wanted it, so they came to the farm by the busload and bought food.”

The fall festival for Hidden Acres is sticking with tradition, offering activities including hay rides, a tire maze, doughnuts and apple and pumpkin picking. Simchuk said the U-pick Honeycrisp orchard, which he procured last spring, has been a big hit with customers.

“We go from mid-September to the end of October out here, and that’s like the entire season for a lot of (farmers) out here,” Simchuk said of the significance of the fall festival. “If we don’t make it in that 45 days, we don’t make it.”

Beck’s Harvest House implemented a reservation system last year to help regulate crowd sizes amid statewide pandemic restrictions, said Kim Beck, who owns the 9919 E. Greenbluff Road business with her husband, Todd.

Kim Beck said they brought reservations back again this year after some encouragement.

“Just the overall feedback that we got from people was that the reservation system made the whole experience way more enjoyable,” she said. “While it’s a little bit more work on our end, the positive feedback from the customers and how much better of a time they’re having with this system makes it all worth it.”

Reservations can be made online at the Beck’s Harvest House website. The entry fee is $5 per carload; Kim Beck said the fee is “to encourage people to make a reservation and keep it.”

Upon arrival, visitors can take their pick to Beck’s fall festival activities, which include apple picking, pony rides, a pumpkin patch, a 5-acre corn maze and a family fun land that has wagon rides, a hay maze and jump castles. The Harvest House is also hosting live music on the weekends through the end of October.

“The success of the fall festival definitely depends on weather,” Kim Beck said, “and when you have nice weather, that just helps everyone and makes everyone happier.”

Like Beck’s, Walters’ Fruit Ranch on 9807 E. Day Road also got a positive response from last year about the reservation system, so they stuck with it, said owner Jason Morrell.

The farm has activities available through the week, though some of the bigger ones – including live music, the corn cannon and the newly repainted “wiggle worm” rides – are only available on the weekends. The Fruit Ranch also has a free corn maze, which was added last year.

Morrell said the fall festival accounts for 70% of the farm’s income.

“It’s literally the culmination of our entire harvest season,” he said.

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