| Harvest Time at The Farm
The North Pole may be the capital of wintertime lore, but when it comes to harvest
season, the Snohomish, Washington, farm of Ben and Carol Krause has autumn
written all over it.
At the Krauses’ homestead — simply called The
Farm — smoke billows from the chimney of a 1917 farmhouse.
Fields of cornstalks teem with the season’s sweetest ears,
and from every corner of the 125-acre property a bright orange
pumpkin is visible.
|Having a barrel of a good time at The
Farm, a young boy smiles next to his favorite pumpkin (which
probably outweighs him). The Krause family’s farm in
Snohomish, Washington, features a corn maze, flower garden,
pumpkin patch and petting zoo.
“I guess I’ve always loved the fall,” says Ben,
a Seattle Pacific University graduate of 1976. It makes sense,
then, that his family’s livelihood
revolves around the season. The Farm has become a harvest-time destination
for Northwest schools and families since opening in 1997. Visitors come from
all over the state to see a selection of pumpkins and gourds in colors ranging
from orange sherbet to lime green, not to mention a petting farm and a corn maze
in the shape of Washington state.
It’s hard to believe, but the Krause
family farm didn’t always look like this. For many years, it ran as a dairy.
When the business became less profitable, says Ben, “I would sit out on
my tractor in the fields and think, ‘How can I get out of this mess?’”
In the end, it was a child who gave the Krauses, both former school teachers,
the idea for their innovative farm. “A boy who was visiting our house showed
us a picture of a corn maze in Pennsylvania,” says Ben. “We thought, ‘Hey,
we might be able to make a living out of this. Maybe it would draw people in.’”
It certainly did. Today The Farm welcomes more than 20,000 school children
annually and thousands more families during the harvest season.
With such an outpouring of public interest, it wasn’t long before their
idea became a sense of mission. “Our whole philosophy is that we want
to promote families in what we do,” says Carol. “People don’t
have the opportunity to be out in open spaces together anymore, and few people
have a connection with a farm.
“It amazes me how many kids don’t know that apples are harvested
in the fall,” she continues. “Nowadays you can get any vegetable
or fruit outside of its natural growing season, so children don’t understand
the cycle of seasons: planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall.”
These are exactly the things schoolchildren, especially those from urban
areas, learn when visiting The Farm. “A lot of kids who come from
Seattle are amazed at how much space there is here,” says Carol. That’s
especially true of the corn maze, which covers more than 11 acres. Ben creates
the maze each year using a grid system shaped like Washington state.
One of the Krauses’ employees, Peter Bohlke — affectionately known
as “Farmer Pete” — usually kicks off tours of the maze. This
particular morning, few of the visiting sixth-graders seem to be interested in
listening to directions.
“Farmer Pete,” says a girl waving her hands, “can we eat the
corn?” “No, it’s a member of the plywood family,” he
replies with a dry humor only their teacher can interpret. “How come the
corn is so tall?” asks a boy in a baseball cap. Pete’s answer gets
right to the point: “Everybody say, ‘manure,’” he instructs. “Manure,” the
group chimes in, laughing.
The children travel by wagon to the maze’s entrance, where Ben hands
out Washington state maps. The instructions sound simple enough: Find the
destinations marked on your map, fill out the quiz and exit at Grays Harbor. “After
you make it out, I’ll have ice cream and a pig show for you — but
don’t lose your maps. I built this maze, and I still get lost in it,” cautions
Ben as the children flood the maze’s entrance.
The Farm isn’t
only for kids. Starbucks and Microsoft employees have both held team-building
excursions here. “Youth groups love coming out to the maze at night with
flashlights,” says Ben.
The Krauses have always relied on their family to get the farm work done. “It’s
a great experience,” Ben says of having raised four children on the farm. “There
are so few farm families anymore.” Among other things, the Krause children
learned the importance of routine. “And if they didn’t do a good
job,” Ben adds, laughing, “they’d have to clean the calf bins.”
He often thinks back to his time at SPU, where he arrived as a junior and immediately
joined the Falcon basketball team. “Keith Swaggerty was our coach,” he
says. “I’ll never forget what he told us: ‘You’re not
just here to play basketball.’ He challenged us in our relationship with
the Lord, and we learned that as Christians we can either be a stepping stone
for other people or a stumbling block.” That’s a motto Ben’s
family embraces every day at The Farm.
Since most of the Krauses’ work is with public schools, they have to use
discretion in communicating their Christian faith, but the message isn’t
lost. “We just try to be who we are, and show an example in how we treat
people,” says Ben.
It’s getting late in the afternoon, and Ben has work waiting for him in
the pumpkin patch, but before he can leave, a fourth-grader named Alex approaches
with a question. Instead of dismissing the boy, Ben delegates his farm task to
son Nate. “I need 20 big pumpkins,” Ben calls, holding out his hands
to indicate extra large.
It’s obvious the child’s question is much more pressing for Ben. “This
is the most fun,” he says, shaking the young man’s hand.
There is definitely a hustle and bustle to farm life, but the rhythm isn’t
hectic or tense. “I was up delivering pumpkins in Edmonds at five this
morning,” Ben says. He’s now ready to load pumpkins into a truck
bound for grocery stores in Alaska.
“We pretty much work hard and then collapse at the end of the day,” says
Carol, smiling. Before he disappears into the pumpkin patch, Ben gives his wife
a knowing look. “’Tis the season,” he says.
— BY SARAH
— PHOTOS BY JIMI LOTT
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