It's Halloween on the farm

In the annual cycle of one local Christmas tree farm, it's the second most wonderful time of the year

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 10/18/19

A bad forecast — as in, the blustery, wet weather we've been seeing all week in the East Bay — is not what Jean Helger-Bento, owner of Pachet Brook Farm, wants to see in these early …

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It's Halloween on the farm

In the annual cycle of one local Christmas tree farm, it's the second most wonderful time of the year

Posted

A bad forecast — as in, the blustery, wet weather we've been seeing all week in the East Bay — is not what Jean Helger-Bento, owner of Pachet Brook Farm, wants to see in these early October days, among the busiest of her year. The wind she can handle, but rain cancels the haunted hayrides that, after the revenues from Christmas tree sales, are the mainstay of her century-old operation. "It's a windy spot, but you don't feel it in the woods," she said. "You're sheltered in the woods."
The Farm has been in Jean's family for more than 100 years.

"My grandmother bought it in 1905," she said. Jean's father bought it from her grandmother, and then, in 1973, after her father passed away, Jean bought it for her mother. She's been working the farm ever since.

They've been doing family-friendly haunted hayrides for about 2 decades. "In the early 1990's we used to do scary nighttime rides. It was like putting on a Broadway show," she said. "But people got out of hand, so we decided to do something different."

The result was wholesome family fun, spooky but not scary, and something that can be appreciated by kids of all ages. "We get everyone here, from kids, to senior groups, adults love it, said Jean. "Everyone who comes the first time loves it, and the ones who are coming back, they love it too."

It's a nice ride through the woods, in one of the farm's two haywagons, about a half-hour's duration. Following the meandering path, Halloween emerges — witches and vampires and monsters, carefully staged within scenes around every corner. There's no shock or scare factor here, and many of the characters are plush, almost friendly representations, adding to the family-friendly vibe.

After the journey through the woods, the path comes out through farm and the Christmas tree fields, and there's a pumpkin patch with small pumpkins for sale.

In addition to Halloween Hayrides, Pachet Brook offers group rides for 8 or more; Campfire Party Hayrides, where after your ride you are invited to enjoy a campfire, roast hot dogs, and make s'mores; Birthday Party Hayrides; as well as school field trips and wedding photography. All are available via reservation; visit Pachetbrook.com or call 401/624-4872.

When Halloween season ends, Christmas tree sales season is right around the corner (the sales only last a month or so, growing and maintaining the tree farm is a year-round labor of love.) Tagging begins weekends about a week before Thanksgiving, and weekdays after. See website for specific times. Pachet Brook grows 7 species of Christmas trees for tagging or for choose and cut. The tree species are Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, White Spruce, Meyer Spruce, Norway Spruce, and White Pine. More and more, Jean is coming to favor insect-resistant, lower maintenance species. These days, Mayer Spruce is a favorite, as it is both easy to grow, and holds its needles.

Cut flower sales and a child day-care center on site keep Jean busy year-round. It's a lot of work, with help from her husband. "He does all the mowing," she said. "That's a big job right there."



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