Moo and Boo! Dairy Farmers Enjoy Halloween Spirit
When Washington dairy farmer Jason Roetciscoender looked to the future, he saw … pumpkins.
Lots of dairy farmers look for ways to supplement their income. For Roetciscoender, that meant using some of his land to grow pumpkins to sell in the fall.
One idea led to another, and last year he carved a 3-acre corn maze into the crop he grows to feed his cows. He suddenly found himself in the ag entertainment business.
“As if I wasn’t busy enough milking 350 cows,” he says with a laugh.
His combination corn maze/pumpkin patch is called Muddy Boots Pumpkins and is becoming a hit with the locals. It provides Roetciscoender and his wife Kerrie an agricultural connection to people who are increasingly disconnected to farmers.
This year’s maze design depicts a cow wearing boots, and Roetciscoender is understandably proud of his craftsmanship. He accomplished the task with equipment not commonly used by dairy farmers who often care for hundreds of acres of farmland: a lawnmower.
“It feels so wrong for a farmer to pull into his corn field with a lawnmower,” said Roetciscoender, a fourth-generation dairy farmer. “I thought, ‘This is going against every grain in my body.’ That was a lot of work.”
But the design is a hit with people who wander through the maze, where several scarecrows are situated for added Halloween spirit. The Roetciscoenders began extending their hours of operation after visitors requested a nighttime experience.
“People are so happy to get off the asphalt and get dirty,” Roetciscoender said. “The kids who visit make it so much fun. Now that my kids are grown, it’s great to see how excited the kids get. They are so hilarious and get so worked up about it.”
The Roetciscoenders aren’t the only dairy farmers who have found Halloween a great time to connect with their community.
Billings Farm & Museum in Vermont allows people to see up close how a dairy farm works every day to provide a fresh supply of nutritious milk. The farm, which dates to 1871, doubles as an education facility and is home to a herd of Jersey cows and other farm animals.
“We celebrate our historical past, but we try to teach visitors about farming in the present as well,” Marge Wakefield said. “The typical child doesn’t know where milk comes from these days. They think you just go to the store to buy it.”
Wakefield said holidays such as Halloween give the farm another reason to draw people closer to the dairy community. Billings will host its 24th annual family Halloween event on Oct. 29, and visitors can participate in a variety of activities, such as making pumpkin ice cream, kids’ parades and pumpkin bowling. That’s right, people roll a tiny pumpkin at – what else? – milk bottles that double as pins!