MANCHESTER, Md. – With most of the remaining leaves on the trees blown away during Superstorm Sandy, and the pumpkins all carved, farms are preparing for another holiday: Christmas.
Showvaker's Quality Evergreens has worked on both fall and winter activities for more than five years now, said Lisa Showvaker. The transition takes about a month in order for the tree farm to open on Black Friday, where Showvaker said many people wait in their cars until the tree farm opens to select Christmas trees.
"No matter what happens, we gotta be ready to open," Showvaker said. "We'll bring in small armies if we need to."
Transitioning from autumn activities means reusing as much as possible, Showvaker said. Leftover pumpkins become feed for the goats and alpacas. The pumpkin patch, which was filled with families and children a week prior, is filled with goats, gnawing and grazing on pumpkins.
Showvaker also grows giant pumpkins, the kind of pumpkins that weigh 800 pounds and need a tractor to move, she said. Even those pumpkins become feed, Mike Wright, a Showvaker employee said. Wright isn't anxious to move the mammoth pumpkins in the first weekends of setting up, he said.
"The longer they sit, the more water they lose, the lighter they get," Wright said.
Showvaker and her employees began tearing down their fall festivities in preparation for the storm, she said. Their preparation paid off — they didn't lose power and were able to cover the hay and take down a few of the tents, she said.
The weather hindered some fall fun this year, she said. But despite the conditions, sales were on par with the previous year.
Saturday, they began pulling out Christmas decorations. The schoolhouse from the fall activities is now lined with stockings. The mailbox outside has "Letters for Santa." Even most of the signs, like the ones on the toy train, are reversible from "Pumpkins" to "Trees."
Wright said the transition is simple: you put it up. Then you take it down.
"It'll look better when all the corn is gone and it's all been shelled and mowed. Then it turns into a parking lot," Wright said.
The small family farm has expanded over the years to include around 15 part-time employees and three full-time employees, Showvaker said. Her first year, they had half the space, and sold Christmas trees out of a small shed, she said.
Now, as winter approaches, employees try to work on big projects first, that involve the most people, she said.
"The biggest job this weekend is getting everything out," Showvaker said.