ASHLAND, Va. -- Green stretches as far as the eye can see in postcard-pretty Hanover County.
Ashland Berry Farm owner Ken Gustafson stands in the middle of more than 30 acres of pumpkin fields on land he purchased in 1978.
Saturday marks the start of his pumpkin selling season at the farm located within a 30-minute drive north of Richmond.
“People are so happy when they come to pick out pumpkins. It brings out the kids in people,” Gustafson explained. “This is what is fun. It’s like a big Easter egg hunt. You have to go out and look through the foliage.”
While many industries struggle to find employees during the pandemic, Gustafson’s outlook this Fall shines bright.
“We are very close to being full. We have orientation this Friday night,” he stated. “We start this coming weekend, last week in September, and go to the end of October and people are willing to do that. Then we put a carrot behind that and say, ‘Ok, if you work all this there’s a bonus for you.’ That just seems to work.”
As cases of COVID-19 ramp up in Central Virginia, Gustafson said both employees and customers see Ashland Berry Farm as a way to escape and experience the fresh air.
“The family picks the pumpkins. They get on a hayride, go back up at the front, load them up and it’s whatever you can take three steps with are yours,” he explained.
The farm is still hiring employees to help with operations during the day and “haunters” to staff their haunted houses and woods during the night.
“This year is going to be a good one,” Gustafson said with a smile.
Gustafson's The Donut Shop, Fort Pumpkin and The Boo House are scheduled to open on October 2. "TERROR ON THE FARM" starts October 1.