Bi-Zi Farms implements online tickets and is forced to eliminate some activities
VANCOUVER — Since 1872, the Zimmerman family has tilled the ground and raised crops at their beloved Bi-Zi Farms in central Clark County. In 1990, the famous pumpkin patch began, and has since attracted tens of thousands of visitors. This year it’s going to be different though.
“We can still have a pumpkin patch, people can still go out and get beautiful pumpkins and nice sized pumpkins,” said Bill Zimmeramn, whose family owns and operates Bi-Zi Farms. “Honestly, we have a fabulous crop this year, but we are going to have to change some things; with COVID the whole thing of sanitation, face masks.”
Due to the ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, state regulations are applied to pumpkin patches this fall, similar to other businesses. Six-foot physical distancing and face masks are required at all farms, as well as a ban on all activities with surfaces that cannot be adequately sanitized after use or render physical distancing impossible.
At Bi-Zi Farms, this means the farm will still operate and supply a robust harvest of pumpkins this year, but will be closing certain, cherished activities.
Activities like the corn bin, free hot drinks, hippity hop races, duck races, and the calf roping competition will not be available this year. Activities including the pumpkin sling shots, hayride, corn maze, bale maze, petting zoo, concessions area, and of course the pumpkin patch will be open.
“We’re going to have to be careful how we load and unload the hayrides,” Zimmerman said. “But anyhow, we can do that for people. The pumpkin patch isn’t that awful far away, and they’re welcome to grab a wheelbarrow and have a nice walk with their family out to the pumpkin patch, grab up some pumpkins and walk back.”
Zimmerman explained how his team has installed sanitation stations across the farm, so people can wash their hands frequently. When it comes to supplying masks, Zimmerman is unsure as to the feasibility.
On an average year recently, the farm sees tens of thousands of people come through during the month that it is open for pumpkins. Zimmerman said that with his current supply prospects, if only 5 percent of people came without a mask of their own, he would be out of masks on the first day.
“It has already been a challenge for us with our field crew,” said Zimmerman. “Our field crew wears a mask because they’re in somewhat close proximity to one another. We’ve required them to wear a mask at all times, and so we’ve gone through thousands of masks already.”
One challenge that has led to some unexpected benefits for Bi-Zi Farms is the implementation of online tickets. In an effort to limit the amount of people in the farm at any given time, people will buy tickets exclusively online this year, with their assigned time slot.
The process has allowed Zimmerman and his crews to have a better idea of how many folks are showing up each day. This also helps with the areas of the farm where limited capacity has always been a concern, even prior to COVID-19. Spaces like the parking lot, the farm store, the concessions tables, and the corn maze are some of those locations.
In addition to the new challenge of online tickets, Bi-Zi Farms has received a little push-back for not dropping prices much, since less amenities are available.
“The problem is we are having to try and add so many extra personnel to try and sanitize wheelbarrow handles to sanitize the petting zoo area to sanitize the handrails on the wagons when they get on and off,” Zimmerman said. “It’s adding up to quite a bit.”
Bi-Zi Farms Pumpkin Patch opens for business Sat., Sept. 26 and will run through Fri., Oct. 30. During that time the farm is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends. General admission is $10 a person.
In spite of the setbacks, Zimmerman expressed how excited he and his family still are for the harvest season. That attitude is shared by many farm owners across the county, from Woodland to Camas.
For a full list of websites for patches and farms in our area, you can visit pumpkinpatchesandmore.org. Over the years, Clark County Today has amassed a little collection of virtual tours of pumpkin patches in Clark County. You can view a playlist with all of them below.
“Please be sure to bring a mask. We want people to stay safe,” Zimmerman said. “We want people to not infect other people, and we want the children to have a good time.”