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Michigan orchards, farms prepare for fall season amid pandemic

Although the season is still a few weeks away, farms are planning for new social distancing procedures.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The upcoming fall season may look very different this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Friday night lights won't be illuminating the football field, another traditional fall activity will still be happening. 

Apple picking is not canceled. 

"It is a family tradition for people that already come out here," said Stephanie Ginsberg of Ed Dunnebeck and Girls Farm. "And this is one thing on their bucket list for fall they can still do."

Ginsberg said while some orchards are starting to pick their apples this week, their variety will be ready after Labor Day. That's when Ed Dunnebeck and Girls starts their fall season. 

A few weeks out from that, workers are planning ahead for the busy season. There will be a few new things guests will notice this year, in response to the pandemic. 

"We’ve definitely had to make some changes," said Ginsberg. "But the one thing we have on our side is a lot of space, because we are a farm. So, we have plenty of land for people to stretch out a bit."

RELATED: Michigan fall high school football season postponed until spring 2021

Ginsberg said the biggest thing guests will need to know is to pack their patience. As the farm works to keep people at a distance, there may be some longer wait times for hay rides or getting baskets for picking apples. 

Anticipating more people, they will limit the number of guests inside the barn. Hayrides will be spaced out, and Ginsberg said they are looking at adding another wagon. Also, to mitigate more people and wait times, she said they plan to add more staff and checkout stations outside. The goal is to limit people congregating in one place.

"We just finished construction on an addition on our barn, which couldn't come at a better time," said Ginsberg. "So, we have more room in our barn for people to walk around and shop or sit and eat."

Inside the barn, tables and displays have been spaced out to allow for social distancing. There are sneeze guards and hand sanitizer spaced throughout. 

Outside, there are tables for outdoor dining. The farm also added hand washing stations nearby. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Hand washing stations are set up near picnic tables.

"It's going to be a work in progress," said Ginsberg, asking for patience with the new procedures. "We’re doing the best we can to mitigate any problems that come about. But sometimes you can’t plan for everything."

She said the summer has been going well, even amid the pandemic. The cherry and strawberry seasons were nice, and their Farm Concert Series brought outdoor music back to the farm. So far, she said guests have been very respectful and happy to have something to do with their families. 

RELATED: Kent County farm welcomes visitors back with Farm Concert Series

You-Pick apples will begin seven days a week after Labor Day. Pumpkins typically start toward the end of September. 

"Being the third largest apple growing state, in Michigan, it is a big part of Michigan industry," said Ginsberg, "It’s good for people to know that and see where their fruit comes from."

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