As the leaves start changing colors and the weather gets cooler, fall gives local farmers the opportunity to grow their businesses and engage with guests of all ages.
Local farms, Clinton Sease Farm and Heritage Fields Farm, provide their customers with many opportunities for fun in the fall such as corn mazes and pumpkin patches.
Heritage Fields Farm, located in Irmo, South Carolina, is a small, family-owned business started by David Derrick when he was only 13 years old. His mother, Dot Derrick, has helped him run the farm since the beginning.
“I gave him two rows in my garden ... and put a little table in our front yard," Dot Derrick said. "He sold out all the time. So, we added a second table. Then we overran that."
Now, Heritage Fields is home to over 40 acres of land with around 30 different types of crops. Located on the side of a busy road, Heritage Fields has a small one-room shop with vegetables, fruits and other goods for sale. Behind the shop is a small greenhouse followed by fields of produce.
Tomatoes are the farm's most popular crop during the summer. Collards are most popular in the winter. Dot Derrick also tends to a garden of iris flowers in the spring. And she said she's the only "one around that does that, too."
"I've always loved it," Dot Derrick said. "My grandmother grew them, and I just started collecting them probably 30 years ago."
Over the years, the farm has become a prosperous business for the family and has generated many loyal customers. Keeping up with the farm has proven to be a major time commitment and responsibility, though.
“It’s a tough business, but (David) loves it,” Dot Derrick said. “He’s up from before the sun comes up and he’s still out at 10:00 to 10:30 at night. So, it is not a nine-to-five job, and it’s seven days a week.”
Heritage Fields plans on continuing its business and building relationships with its customers until David Derrick decides to retire.
“We’ve got the most fantastic customers,” Dot Derrick said.
Meanwhile, Clinton Sease Farms, located in Lexington, South Carolina, has pumpkins for sale in the fall, but its produce is not the main attraction that draws customers in. This farm is also home to an eight-acre corn maze that changes design every year.
“Eighteen years, 18 different mazes. Never the same,” Clinton Sease, the farm's owner, said. “Every year since that time we’ve been adding and adding. ... And we’re about to the point, the next step is going to be moving the corn maze up because we’ve run out of place to put it.”
The maze and the accompanying attractions on the farm are open for the whole month of October. Under the large entrance sign, there is a map as well as pamphlets to help guide visitors through. This year, the theme of the maze was farm defenders, which was inspired by animals that cause trouble on the farm.
Though the maze is closed now, and Sease said he might take "a week after we close here to try to rejuvenate a little bit," in January, he and his team start looking for inspiration for next year's attractions. Many of their ideas are inspired by other farms across the country. Sease and his family attend conventions that host farmers nationwide so they can share ideas within the community.
Many of the farm’s playground equipment was influenced by these conventions. A slide that is made from an old combine harvester was inspired by equipment from another farm in Pennsylvania.
"We try to keep it connected to the farm somehow," Sease said. “And if you notice, most of my playground equipment, most of it is tied to something that used to be on the farm.”
The farm also hosts events such as birthday parties, school field trips and church groups. It offers different birthday party packages, including food and its main attractions like the corn maze.
Clinton Sease Farm has also hosted a fall retreat for the USC ambassadors in recent years. Last month was the first time in two years the farm was able to host the event due to COVID-19.
Joshua Pack, a fourth-year management and finance student, has attended this event twice during his time as a USC ambassador. Pack said the fall retreat is a way to build a stronger community within the USC ambassadors group.
“We just took a tour of the farm, made s'mores together, roasted hot dogs, just kind of hung out,” Pack said.