MEET A COX FARMER – Q&A WITH CAMERON

Remember the scene from “The Wizard of OZ” when Toto pulls back the curtain and exposes the “real” wizard who is making all the sound, lighting and visual effects? The famous line that’s spoken, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”? That’s our Cameron-the mastermind behind all our tech “stuff”! You may have even seen him whizzing by you on his bike on the festival grounds, his favorite mode of transportation.

CAMERON

 

Q: How long have you been at Cox Farms?

A: 2015 will be my 8th Fall Festival.

Q: What is your actual job title?

A: I’m the Technology Manager.

Q: What do you like to do on your day off?

A: That depends on the season. During the fall it’s binge-watching something on Netflix but the rest of the year I like to go hiking and camping.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I was born in Utah but went to high school in Vienna.

Q: Pet peeve?

A: Noodles that are not cooked “al dente”.

Q: Do you have a favorite meal?

A: It’s an African dish called “Fufu”, you dip corn balls into a peanut sauce. We ate it a lot when I was growing up.

Q: Name a place you’ve never been but hope to see.

A: Antartica

Q: What was your biggest challenge for this year’s Fall Festival?

A: The Forest – Imaginature Trail during the day/The Forest: Back 40 during Fields of Fear. So many props, so much technology/special effects, things we’ve never done before. It’s really cool.

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Q: What do you love the most about the Fall Festival?

A: Being outside, on my bike and seeing all the kids having fun.

Thanks, Cameron! We’re very appreciative of our man behind the curtain!

 

Which Tomato Variety Fits Your Personality?

Have you ever taken a Personality Test? It’s insightful and fun! Personality typing is useful in hiring, relationships, and even… gardening? Once you know your four-letter type, we can take it to a whole new level: tomatoes. Here are some common personality types and correlating tomato varieties. Of course, you may find that opposites attract, so don’t be surprised if your tomato personality isn’t the one you most enjoy. Remember, there are no good or bad personalities, so hopefully we can appreciate our differences; summer would be a very boring season if all tomatoes were the same!

ISTP: You are practical and action-oriented. You like immediate application and short-term results. Red Cherry Large are your go-to tomato.

large_red_cherry_tomato

ESTJ: You’re a fan of order, tradition and practicality. A Big Beef or Beefmaster is your type of tomato. You probably lean toward a traditional tomato that produces big results and being the take charge type of person that you are, you don’t need much help to harvest these big beauties.

beefmaster

ENTJ: This type tends to be thick skinned, loyal and visionaries. You’re a paste/plum tomato kind of person. You can see the sauce in your future. You’ll make it, freeze it and in mid-January enjoy it over a warm bowl of pasta with the family!

plum tomatoes

ESTP: Practical and fun-loving, you have the skills to care for your tomato plant but you want it be a little “out there”. A stripey Green Zebra will do the trick.

green zebra

ISTJ: Your motto is “just do it”! You like things tidy, organized and structured. No tomato is better for you than a sweet, contained patio tomato. Just put it in a pot and let it do it’s thing.

buchanans tomato_patio

ESFP: “YOLO” is your hashtag. Spontaneous and easily bored, you will try anything. If something doesn’t work (or grow), you are practical enough to understand why it didn’t and if you can’t fix it, you will move on. Bring on the Japanese Black Trifele or Cherokee Purple or Lemon Boy. You have no shortage of optimism.

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lemon-boy-tomato

So, how’d we do? If your type isn’t listed, what do you propose for your tomato variety match?

 

 

 

PLANTS THAT PULL DOUBLE DUTY

Remember when plants had one job, like to sit there and look pretty? We want our gardens to sustain and nourish our bodies, soothe our souls, attract butterflies and hummingbirds, feed birds, repel mosquitos and deer, all while looking great. Here are some multi-tasking plants that are up to the challenge:

IMG_5399Marigold – The good old marigold…that hardy, traditional and multi-functional annual.  Attracting butterflies while repelling insects and attracting birds.  Who could ask for more?

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Hibiscus – This tropical beauty attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Plus, if your vacation becomes a staycation, you can marvel at the beautiful blooms and feel as though you got away from it all!

lavender_plants_r620x349Lavender – The fragance is delightful and unique.  It’s deer and rabbit resistant, attracts bees and butterflies, too.  If that’s not enough, lavender is low maintenance, drought resistant and so much more!  Check out this recipe for Lemon-Lavender Shortbread Cookies

bee balmBee Balm  This perennial is not only a looker when in bloom but has so many other talents.  It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.  Also called wild bergamont, the leaves are used in tea and it is said to provide bee sting relief. It’s also known for other medicinal purposes.

lantana

Lantana – The deer may shy way from this annual but the butterflies won’t and it’s drought resistant.  Looks great in hanging baskets, combo pots or as an edge in a garden.  The vibrant little blooms will provide color all season long.

For all these multi-tasking plants and more, come see us at the Corner Market.  We’re open daily until 7.

BASIL WINS BY A NOSE!

We asked and you have let your opinions be known.  When we inquired on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “If you could only plant one herb, which one would you choose?”, it resulted in basil being the clear cut winner! We decided to put together a few of our favorite basil recipes – there’s something for everyone on the list – from soup to nuts, or in the case of basil, from smoothie to the grill.  Enjoy!

Blueberry-Basil-Smoothie1

Blueberry Basil Smoothie

Homemade-Pesto-7

7 Ingredients to Pesto

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Tomato Mozzarella Caprese Skewers

Basil-Chive-Cucumber-Corn-Salad

Basil Chive Cucumber & Corn Salad

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20 Minute Cherry Tomato and Basil Pasta

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Lemon Basil Grilled Pork Chops

Have a recipe that you want to share? For more basil recipes and other scrumptious summertime meals visit our Summer is Delicious! board on Pinterest!

 

Donation Fund Update #2: Helping Get Families Home for the Holidays

This year has been our most successful “in lieu of tips” donation collection ever: we have exceeded $5,000 in donations at the Corner Market this season. (And counting, by the way! If you’d like to contribute, we’ll be accepting donations until 12 noon on Christmas Eve.) With Cox Farms’ match, we’ve collected more than $10,000 to support local families in need! Yesterday we described our $5,000 donation to Our Daily Bread, to provide holiday gifts for 200 local kids whose families are struggling. Obviously, since we’re talking about $10,000, that’s only half the story…so here’s Update #2:

For the past two years, we have used all remaining funds (after going overboard with gifts for our sponsored Our Daily Bread families) to support one of our other favorite community organizations, Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) and their Manassas campus, SERVE. Specifically, we have purchased thousands of dollars in gift cards to ensure that their clients and shelter residents- particularly the children- received gifts for the holidays.

This year, when I contacted SERVE to discuss our plans, I learned about the “Re-Housing 50 Families in 100 Days” initiative they have undertaken for the holiday season, part of a statewide effort to end family homelessness. SERVE points out that “toys and clothes are quickly outgrown, but a home can provide a lifetime of safety and security.” (In addition, SERVE assured us that they have received enough gift cards through other holiday donations to ensure that all the children at the shelter will receive gifts.)

Indeed, when it was brought to our team, everyone agreed that helping homeless families to secure stable housing would be the best gift imaginable. SERVE provides two great options for supporting this important work, and we’re excited to be contributing to both this season. First, we are using our funds to assemble a “Welcome Home” basket for a family that is moving from a shelter into stable housing; these baskets include household basics that quickly add up, from bed linens to bath towels to plates. We will be donating the rest of our funds to support SERVE’s Re-Housing fund, with donations that will provide a couple families with the financial support to get them “home for the holidays” (typically provided in the form of first month’s rent and security deposits).

While this form of giving is perhaps less flashy and not quite as ‘warm-and-fuzzy’ as giving gifts to children at a shelter, we’re confident that the ultimate impact on our community will be deep and long-lasting for the families touched by our donation. We’re thrilled to be able to contribute to both NVFS/SERVE and Our Daily Bread in support of the important work these organizations do.

Cox Farms is blessed to have such generous customers and employees. Thank you for being part of this community of compassion. I hope you share my sense of awe and pride and gratitude regarding this incredible difference we’re making together  I can’t think of a better way to end 2013!

Donation Fund Update #1: Christmas Gifts for 200 Local Kids!

Thanks to our generous customers, we're donating $10,000 to organizations dedicated to supporting local families in need.

Thanks to our generous customers, we’re donating $10,000 to organizations dedicated to supporting local families in need.

Back in November, we shared our excitement about the upcoming winter season, and along with it, our third year of accepting donations in lieu of tips, and using those funds to support local families in need. Now that our season is wrapping up, here’s Update #1:

This year, we made our donations effort more visible and posted signs committing us to a goal of “Christmas Gifts for 100 Children!” Between our generous customers and Cox Farms’ matching funds, each year has been better than the last, and 2013 is no exception. Instead of limiting our assistance to a handful of families, for 2013 we went bigger: we achieved “Wish Granter” status as a program sponsor of Our Daily Bread’s Holiday Program, donating a whopping $5,000 to provide holiday gifts for 200 local children.

Clearly, we have surpassed our original goal of providing gifts for 100 kids. But that’s only half the story… tomorrow we’ll share more great news about the impact of our 2013 holiday donations.

Our Local Tradition: Making Holiday Wishes Come True for Local Kids in Need

The Corner Market opens for the Christmas season this Friday, November 29. This very brief season brings with it all kinds of fun and excitement here at the farm and everywhere else! It also brings us together as a community, to take care of and support each other in times of need.

Did you know that together, we have donated more than $15,000 in food, gifts and gift cards to struggling local families in just the past two years? If you’ve “tipped” the Cox Farmer loading your Christmas tree, you donated! We’re “tip-free,” because we believe that giving you great service is part of our job in delivering the Cox Farms experience. Starting in 2011, all “tips” have gone into our “Adopt a Family” donation fund. Cox Farms then matches the donation total, which means we can spread the holiday cheer to twice as many families!

We’ve sponsored dozens of families through Our Daily Bread’s holiday program, providing food, gifts and gift cards (and LOTS of kettle corn!) to families in need. In addition, we’ve supplied  Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) with thousands of dollars in gift cards to ensure that every single child residing in their SERVE Shelter in Manassas receives a holiday gift.

This year, we’ve set our sights higher than ever: we want to provide gifts for at least 100 local children this holiday season. We love being your local tradition… and we’d especially love for you to be part of this holiday tradition of ours. Please consider donating when you visit the Corner Market this winter!

How to Not Lose Your Child at the Fall Festival this Weekend (And What to Do If They Lose You Anyway)

not lost

This kid is not lost.

Here at Cox Farms, we have become experts at reuniting lost kids with their parents and teachers. Over the years, we have made changes to the Fall Festival, from procedures to staffing to fencing, to make it safer and easier for families and groups to stay together. Along the way, we have picked up some tips that we hope you’ll find useful.  Let’s start at the beginning…

 

Planning Your Visit

  • Consider visiting on an off-peak time, when crowds will be at a minimum. In addition to being way more fun and avoiding lines, it also is much easier to keep your group together when there’s more space on the farm. As an added incentive, we make it cheaper for you to visit during these times! On weekday afternoons, it can sometimes feel like you have the farm to yourself, and using our special Weekday Afternoon Value Cards, you can get in for just $7/person. You save $3 per person by coming on a “Regular” Weekend (Sep 21-22, 28-29, Oct 26-27, Nov 2-3) instead of a “Prime” Weekend. Less traffic, short lines, fewer than 200 5-year-old boys named Jacob wearing red shirts and jeans, etc.

On the day of your visit…

This kid might be lost.

  • LABEL each kid with your name and cell phone number (or the number of the adult responsible for chaperoning the child)- be sure to list a cell phone number that will actually be with you here at the farm! That way, when we find your lost kid, we can just call that number and reunite you.
    • Stickers are best! We have stickers available for you at the ticket booth for just this very purpose. (Just make sure you remove them before washing the clothes… we’ve all been there!)
    • Use a permanent marker on whatever label you use… or, if you prefer, write it in permanent marker on their arms. We won’t judge.
    • Or, for a fun alternative, check out these “safety tattoo” temporary tattoo options: http://www.safetytat.com/ and http://tottoos.org/.
    • If you have concerns about privacy, or to make sure your child does not shed the outside labeled layer of clothing as the day heats up, put the sticker on an under layer. (Sometimes I will put them inside and upside down on the front of their tee shirts. Then we practice: if you get lost, find a safe adult and flip up the bottom of your shirt to show them your sticker.)
    • Do NOT use neck lanyards/yarn necklaces: the Fall Festival is an action-packed place, and your kids will be climbing, swinging and sliding all over the place. It is a safety hazard to have something long hanging around their necks.
    • Safety pins obviously have disadvantages as well, since paper can tear off of them and they can open accidentally.
  • TALK about what to do if you get separated. Some of this is standard and applies to any situation or location, but some of it may be specific to the venue. At Cox Farms, all of our employees are required to wear red Cox Farms smocks and a name tag. We have little signs up that show a person in one of these smocks saying “If you’re lost, I can help!” We also have uniformed Fairfax County Police officers at the farm.
  • BE SPECIFIC: with my kids, we talk about finding a “safe adult,” but it is important to remember to define who a safe adult is, how your child should determine who is safe, and how to approach them.
  • PRACTICE! It seems silly, but even the kids who have heard it a million times can freeze up and panic when it actually happens to them.

When you arrive…

  • Find a Farmer! Point out a Cox Farms employee wearing the red smock, so your kid knows what to look for.
  • Say ‘cheese!’ Take a picture upon arrival. If you have a large group, you may want to take closer individual photos of each kid; make sure the photo shows the kid head to toe. This way, if your child is lost, you can pull out your phone/camera and show us the picture instead of trying to provide a description from memory. (Yes, of course you know what your child looks like, but details like hair accessories, shoes and precise clothing descriptions are often crucial to helping us find your child quickly.)
  • Make a plan. Remind your child that, if at any time during your visit they are unable to find you, they need to stop playing and find a safe grown-up to help.

The most common lost kid scenario we see is the one in which the parent is frantic or even hysterical, and the child does not yet realize that he or she is lost. Once a child is visibly upset, s/he will be incredibly easy to spot, and in the middle of a festival full of families, other parents will be very quick to flag down a Cox Farmer to assist. The trouble comes when the child is happily playing, going on the same slide over and over again, since then they appear to be just another happy visitor. (Sometimes these lost kids will even resist our attempts to bring them to their worried parents, since they don’t want the fun to be interrupted.)

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  • Slide Ups and Downs: decide on your plan for the slides. This is especially important if you have a single adult and/or more than one child. One solo adult cannot be at the top AND at the bottom of the slide at the same time. For this reason, we staff the tops of our slides; that way, you can settle your child in line, we help send them off, and then you can meet them at the bottom. Some parents prefer to stay with the child in line, which is fine, but you’ll want to plan to go down with or just in front of your child(ren) so you can meet them at the bottom. We allow a maximum of two people to slide together, either an adult with a child or two children together.
  • “Wave Rule”: sometimes, when we’re worried that a child may be unaccompanied on a slide or other activity, we will enact the “wave rule.” The Wave Rule is simply that, from the top of the slide, they should be able to wave, and their grown-up should wave back. If nobody returns their wave, it is time for us to take a break from sliding and help them locate their adult.

Kiddie Zone!

 

  • Get in the Zone… the Kiddie Zone! If you have toddlers or preschoolers, head over to the “Kiddie Zone!” This area is especially designated for our smallest visitors, with scaled down fun and a slower pace. It also is completely contained in fencing, with a single (relatively narrow) entrance/exit point. On busy days, it can be especially nice to give your little ones a safer place where they can run more freely. The entry/exit point is sometimes-but not always- staffed by a Cox Farmer who is trained to not let any children leave without an adult, but of course it is still your responsibility to keep your child from escaping.

 

  • The “Fun Tunnel” by the festival entrance is also fully fenced, so parking yourself at the single entry/exit point and staying alert should keep your group contained.
  • At times, you may notice a Cox Farmer visually tracking your young child if they are more than a few feet away from you. We’re not trying to creep you out, and we realize how important it is for little ones to have some independence! This is just our way of making sure the child isn’t lost; if you notice us doing this, feel free to acknowledge us and say, “Yep, he’s mine, I got him,” and we’ll happily go on our way.
  • All Cox Farmers are trained to handle lost children and parents, but our Entry/Exit team is especially prepared to handle these scenarios. They are alerted to all lost children and will actively be on the lookout, doing their best to ensure that kids and adults are matched up to prevent children from wandering out without their adults.

We know how scary it is to lose a child in situations like these, and as parents, many of us understand how frustrating it is to have kids wander off even after you remind them a million times to stay with you. That said, if you do lose your child, please don’t yell, scream at or hit your child when you are reunited. It is, however, okay to hug your child a lot and cry if you need to. (Don’t be embarrassed, we see it several times a day.)

 Lost Kids/Parents FAQ

Q: Why don’t you follow the popular Code Adam protocol for handling lost children?  Why don’t you lock down the exits?

A: For those not familiar with Code Adam, it is a popular “missing child” protocol for handling lost/missing children, and it has become the standard operating procedure in many grocery stores, shopping malls, amusement parks, government buildings, etc. Our protocol shares many of the same main steps, in terms of announcing, reporting descriptions, alerting exits, etc. There are some parts of the Code Adam protocol that are simply not applicable or logistically feasible in our setting. Unlike a building with walls or even permanent fencing, “locking down the exits” at the farm is not practical, since anyone intent on getting out of the farm could do so avoiding the exit. We also have the benefit of having law enforcement officers already onsite for many days of the festival. Given the size of the festival grounds, the number of things around to engage/distract kids, and the average time it takes for a lost child at the farm to realize that s/he is lost, the 10 minute time frame for calling in law enforcement is not practical; after all, in often takes longer than that for a child to go just once through the line for a popular slide.

Q: Why don’t you announce/page lost parents and children on the main stage?

A: We have found that while this is reassuring to many parents, its effectiveness is actually very limited due to the layout of the festival grounds. We do not have a farm-wide speaker system; we use walkie-talkie radios instead. That is the system we use to announce lost kids and parents to our employees all across the farm. (And yes, given the number of kids lost on busy days and the speed at which they are usually reunited, it would be really disruptive to announce and describe each child and then announce again when they are reunited minutes later.)

Q: What is the BYC (Big Yellow Chair), and how is it used?

A: The Big Yellow Chair is one of our oldest official “meeting points” at the Fall Festival. Many visitors simply know it as a perennial favorite photo opportunity! (Yes, the original has been replaced several times, as they do get a lot of traffic!) Between the big rope swings and the Milking Parlor, you’ll see two giant yellow chairs. Some parents designate this as their meeting spot, an agreed place that all parties will go to if they get separated. Depending on where on the farm the child/parent is lost, we sometimes use this as our gathering place for lost kids/parents, so that one or two employees (or police officers) can keep tabs on multiple kids, freeing up the rest of us to search more efficiently. Please note that the BYC is generally not a staffed/monitored station.

Q: Why do you insist on an employee staying with the lost parent? Wouldn’t it be more effective to spread out? The employee told me that they would end the search for my child if I didn’t stay with the employee.

A: Yes, our policy is that the adult MUST STAY with a Cox Farmer while a search for their child is underway. If a parent does not stay with the employee, the search is put on hold or called off. When we lose that constant connection with the searching parent, we have no way of knowing if and when the child is located. Understandably, finding an employee to update us on the status of their search is usually not so high on the frantic parent’s priority list… and with this many visitors, that means we may spend those precious minutes continuing to look for a child who has been found, diluting the attention paid to other ongoing searches. Also, if we find the child before the parent does, we have no way of contacting the adult to let them know, meaning that they needlessly continue to worry. We realize it is difficult and may be counter-intuitive to stay in one place or otherwise stick by the side of a Cox Farmer when your baby is missing. Please trust us and work with us; we share the same goal, to reunite you with your child as quickly as possible.

Full Disclosure: In addition to being an owner at Cox Farms, I also live here on the farm with my partner and our four children. Having four kids in 21 months means that we are personally all too familiar with the frantic headcounts and corralling of kiddos. Although our children are now (at ages 5-7) old enough and confident enough to either ask an employee or find their way home, for the first several years I insisted on pinning special Cox Farms employee name tags to their backs… yes, EVEN THOUGH WE ACTUALLY LIVE HERE at the farm. On these name tags, I had written “If I’m lost, call my mom on Channel 1,” so that any employee who came across them would know to contact me on my always-on walkie-talkie radio. Yes, this farm is their home, but during the Fall Festival, it was still unnerving when we ventured out from our yard.

 

 

So, What’s New? This Is Your Fall Festival Sneak Peek!

With only 2 days left until the 2013 Fall Festival Preview Weekend, we thought you would like to have a sneak peek of a few new things you are sure to enjoy this fall!

Farm Chores, which has always been a huge hit with the 10ish and under crowd, the kids (and a few adults) will love our horse grooming stations!  Brushing and braiding these horsetails will become a favorite!  Over and over again!IMG_0105

When it comes to edibles, we have added something new, slightly tart and sweet!  Fresh from our Caramel Apple House, you will love homemade caramel apples, hand dipped by Cox Farms Baker, Cupcake Jeremy!  They are delish!

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On the Hayride route you may come across the Monsters Bus…just cute little monsters on the Crocodile School Bus.  Of course, seeing it depends on whether you go the EASY WAY or the HARD WAY!

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So much more to tell! A fire engine slide!  Beautiful pheasants! Piglets due to be born any day! We would love to show you more, but with only 2 days left, there is still work to be done!  We will leave you with a peek at a chick that goes “peep”!

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See you this Saturday and Sunday for Preview Weekend!  For all the Fall Festival information you need including tickets, hours, tips and a map of the grounds: coxfarms.com/fallfestival.aspx

 

 

 

Behind The Scenes 2013: Dino-Slide Renovation!

din5Our biggest and baddest slide has undergone a major transformation for the upcoming 2013 Fall Festival and we are beaming with excitement!

With Preview Weekend just a month away, we thought we would give you a sneak peak of the Dino-Slide renovation!

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The first thing you’ll notice, at the entrance to the slide, is the brand new Dino-Tunnel, complete with fossil walls and a prehistoric visitor!dino3

IMG_9611As you grab your sack and head up to the top of the slide, take a look at the newly painted, all blue lanes.

 

However, that’s not your typical handyman’s paint job, that’s the mack daddy of super special slide paint! Specifically created for water park slides, the new slide paint will not only keep the slide moving fast, it will also lessen the need for waxing breaks.  That means that more lanes are moving faster throughout the day, which means – and here’s the best part – faster moving lines!  It’s a user-friendly slide!

“That’s all fine and dandy”, we hear you saying, “but where’s the proof?”  Well, we brought in a few consultants from our Fun Department to test it out.  Take a look at their faces.  We’re just sayin’…

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The smiles of approval!

For all the Fall Festival scoop, just click on the link:  http://www.coxfarms.com/fallfestival.aspx