Madison-area fall farms thrive as pandemic persists

DEERFIELD, Wis.– Ask Don Schuster how COVID hurt his business, and the local farmer can’t help but feel guilty.

“We’re all outdoors,” he said, before quietly adding, “It didn’t.”

Schuster knows he’s lucky. Although his pumpkin farm and outdoor haunt made small tweaks, like selling timed tickets, to spread out crowds and follow CDC guidelines, families still came in droves to fulfill their fall traditions in 2020. And they’re doing it again in 2021.

“The thing that is so cool is that college kids are coming out here,” Schuster said.

“Last year, when they couldn’t go to the bars, they sat out here on our picnic tables and ate caramel apples. We just have so many acres to enjoy.”

This fall, Schuster’s Farm has been attracting bigger crowds than last year, according to Don’s daughter, Sarah.

Sundays are busiest day on the farm, although all weekends have been busy, with warmer-than-usual, mostly-dry weather. The Schuster’s say the next two weekends are typically the busiest, before crowds die down on the 30th and 31st, the final days the farm is open.

90% of Schuster’s total business comes from the fall season.

“We feel kind of guilty,” the elder Schuster reflected.

“But the pandemic also makes you feel lucky. We get to operate.”

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