Branden and Bryan Butterfield wore almost the same outfit: a short-sleeved shirt, boot cut pants and well-worn work boots.
They carried straw bales from the trailer outside and methodically placed them in the middle of the floor of their farm market, Butterfields Farm.
The pair have been working together on the farm since Bryan built the market’s large metal barn building in 2004, when Branden was a toddler.
Before that, Bryan’s father, beginning in 1975, ran a small farm stand at the same spot on Trenton Oxford Road, less than a mile from Miami University’s campus.
“We’d drag it out in July and we drag it back in September,” Bryan said while he kept an eye on Branden and employees who carried more straw bales inside.
“No, go further down. No, further, because we gotta take them up here,” Bryan said.
Once they had one side of bales arranged, they carried over the centerpiece: two corn stalk horses, as tall as them, named “Pop” and “Hooter.”
“We could probably go a little bit to the left. Your right,” Branden said while directing his father who was positioning the massive horses.
Bryan and Branden set up their fall display every year. They top the straw bail base with their wide variety of pumpkins and gourds, an at least 2000-pound pumpkin, the 16-year-old corn stalk horses and their wagon.
“You want to do the straw or put the wagon in first?” Bryan said.
“No, the wagon will be last I think. You put the straw and then you put the …” Branden said.
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“So, you want to build this up?”
With just days until they’d planned to open their corn maze and hayrides for the season on Sept. 30, they were getting their fall decor prepared for the influx of fall-eager customers.
On the far side of the farm market sat large cardboard boxes on pallets full of the wide varieties of pumpkins and gourds they had sourced from a 350-mile radius, waiting to be set out for sale.
“We will have every shape and size, and I drive long ways to get what we put the display in and we get it done,” Brian said. “There’s not a lot that has the variety that we do.”
This year, that variety includes peanut pumpkins that seem to have peanuts emerging from their surface, Cinderella pumpkins that are plump and orange, Buckskin pumpkins that are a new variety with tan-colored skin, Grizzly bear pumpkins that are covered in warts and Snake gourds that are green and long.
The Butterfields try to have something new every year, from even wider varieties of pumpkins, to their recently acquired large wooden train.
“We’re gonna mount that on the wall,” Bryan said of the train just before he saw customers in the greenhouse, browsing their colorful mum selection.
“I got to go help them for a second.”
He exchanged with the customers, Brandee Randall and her son, Sebastian Randall, who have come to Butterfields for years as a family tradition.
“Since he's been little, he's been picking out his pumpkins here,” Brandee said. “This is where we go every year. He still does and we always each pick out a pumpkin and carve them. ”
As residents of West Hamilton, she said they like the local environment of Butterfield.
“We come here actually multiple times a year — I get my flowers here in the spring. We come here in the fall,” Brandee said. “We've been doing it for almost as long as he's been around, which is 15 years.”
Bryan said the business model that has kept Butterfield Farms going all these years is simple.
“Everybody's going to eat,” Bryan said. “They're going to eat, and, if you have a good product, good people and you have quality, you'll stay in business. So that's been our motto for 19 years and so far so good.”
Since 2004, the Butterfields have doubled the size of the original building and filled it fuller every year with their ever-developing arrangement of, among other things, produce, Amish goods like cheese and butter, plants and flowers, and lawn furniture.
“Every year he puts more and more on my shoulders,” Branden said. “It's more of a he does all the running and I'm kind of here [at the market] just helping run, helping take care of the employees making sure everything fits in the right spot.”
Branden didn’t always want to work on the farm. When Bryan used to tell people that Branden would run the farm in a few years, Branden would respond that he didn’t like it much.
In high school, though, it grew on him.
“Once I took that year off [after high school], I never went back. I just kind of stayed and just helped him,” Branden said as his father tried to align the forks on their tractor to a pallet of pumpkins to go on the trailer for another farm.
He was about to put the forks through the large cardboard box and into the pumpkins but couldn’t quite see it.
“Down!” Branden said just in time, loud enough to hear over the tractor.
Branden has tried other jobs in the off-season, but it didn’t quite feel right having a different boss.
“I never really paid attention to it, but I don't like people telling me what to do,” Branden said. “Because he's always told me what to do, it doesn't really bother me.”
Bryan had lowered the forks.
“Back up!” Branden said, continuing to guide him. “Down! Good! You’re good!”
Bryan and Branden started their day at 5 a.m., and they wouldn’t finish until 9 p.m. or later. They never know how their day will go or what problems will need solving, but Branden says it’s worth it.
“Every day is a little bit different, but the most consistent thing is waking up, coming over, getting everything ready, and opening,” Branden said. “Once it's open, we kind of go and do whatever we need … Then, at the end of the day closing is always the greatest, once you close the doors and everything's kind of done and that's it.”
This season has already had its low points for the farm. Earlier in the year, they lost one patch of pumpkins to flooding and another to a disease.
Within the next few days, they’d be doing the final trimming of the maze, setting up and testing their new corn cannon, creating their duck racing tracks and staking signs for their new interactive games.
One change of weather could curb their plans, but Branden and Bryan say they’re ready.
“If you have that attitude that ‘whatever happens next happens and we'll deal with it,’ we'll get through it and we'll go on,” Bryan said. “Once you get farming in your blood, you're going to do it.”