CLEARWATER, Kan. -- It has been a bountiful harvest for Kansas farmers who rely on agritourism as a source of income.
The weeks before Halloween are a busy time for the owners of pumpkin patches and corn mazes, which are just a couple of the types of the nearly 300 agritourism operations in Kansas. While they are popular fall entertainment for families, they also serve an educational purpose.
When it began getting tough to remain profitable in the dairy industry, David and Debbie Klausmeyer of Clearwater knew they needed to find a way to further diversify their farm. Now, they spend much of their time teaching children -- and even adults -- about where their food is produced.
"There are not many connections to the farm," Debbie Klausmeyer said.
The Klausmeyers are trying to re-establish those connections by opening their farm for school field trips and other guests.
"We started doing the agritourism because we have six children and we were asked by the school all the time, 'Can they come visit the farm,'" Debbie said.
The farm's dairy demonstrations, pumpkin patch and pig races diversified their revenue stream and allows them to educate their guests about the first steps of food production.
"I've been to a lot of farm meetings and people say, 'Well, only if the public knew what we go through,' and stuff like that," David Klausmeyer said. "Everybody just said that and nobody ever wanted to do anything."
Cox Farm near Haysville has used its popular corn maze and pumpkin patch as a backdrop to teaching visitors about how crops are grown in Kansas. This year has been one of the best in the farm's 88-year history. The pumpkin patch is 12 acres and all of the pumpkins were gone before Halloween.
"We sold out," said Ron Stein, owner of Cox Farm. "Last Sunday afternoon about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., all the big pumpkins were gone. Usually, we have about 3,000 or 4,000 left."
A fall tradition for many families has allowed the 40-acre Cox farm to remain profitable.
"There's five generations of us here now and that's what keeps us going," Stein said.
The Klausmeyers say it is the combination of fun and learning that keeps their farm afloat.
"It's really rewarding," Debbie said. "The children are excited to see the animals and the comments that we get; they're just darling."