Farmers determined to bring fall festivities despite setbacks


GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Fall has arrived, bringing excitement for fall festivals and pumpkin patches. Farmers are no different as they spend months preparing for these events and activities.

Farmers actually depend on these events and activities for a large chunk of their income. Preparing isn’t easy, especially if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.

Emily Armstrong owns Horse Creek Farms in Chuckey with her husband and was eager to host their very first sunflower festival. However, Armstrong said they faced bad advice for their first crop of sunflowers. Rain brought on by Hurricane Ida knocked out their second crop.

“We do have some flowers and we do have little patches of them,” said Armstrong. “It’s nothing like that it was before but we can’t control the weather. We can’t control how any of that happens. We kind of just have to roll with it and offer the best we can.”

Armstrong couldn’t back down after all the time and money she poured into creating the festival.

The festival includes more than just photo opportunities with sunflowers. Armstrong created a corn maze, vendors will be serving food, and live music will be performed.

Due to the impact on the flowers, the festival will now include a tour of the dairy where people can meet the cows and pet and feed their calves.

“We’re really trying to use all of our resources to make it a really great event and to make it worth people’s time coming out and make it worth their money because this is how we make our living,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong isn’t the only farmer facing setbacks.

Buffalo Trail Orchard is one of few orchards in the area that offers pick-your-own apples — an attraction that owner Phil Ottinger said brings people from far and wide year after year.

Ottinger said a late freeze killed about 75 to 80% of their apples.

“When we do pick your own, there’s a huge crowd that comes in,” said Ottinger. “So if you’re going to do pick-your-own, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got a lot of apples, or you have people driving an hour, two hours, and they get here and there are no apples to pick and obviously we don’t want that to happen.”

There are still a variety of pre-picked apples available to buy at the farm.

Visitors can also purchase a variety of squash, jams, jellies, and hand pies. Ottinger is also running a hayride down to the pumpkin patch and sunflower field where visitors can pick their own pumpkins and sunflowers straight from the field.

Ottinger said this is one of the best pumpkin crops he’s had in years. He said he planted 20 to 25 varieties of pumpkins for people to choose from.

“When we take them to the patch and they get off the wagon, I hand each family a set of clippers,” said Ottinger. “I do make sure it goes to an adult, you know they are can be a little dangerous, so you don’t want kids to have them.”

Ottinger said he sees families make a tradition of coming to the farm yearly and hopes new visitors will do the same. Armstrong said she hopes to see families coming back generation after generation.

Hayrides and pick-your-own pumpkins are offered at Buffalo Trail Orchard every Saturday and Sunday in October from 1-6 p.m. Visitors can purchase produce and homemade goods at the farm store seven days a week.

The Sunflower Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 10 from 1-6 p.m.

Horse Creek Farms will also be holding a glowstick corn maze Saturday night.

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