For many Turlockers, a visit to R.A.M. Farms has become a holiday tradition both in the fall for its pumpkin patch and corn maze and then again in winter for ice skating and a picture with Santa Claus. The farm's popularity is evident in the dramatic increase in visitors, from close to 15,000 when it was just a pumpkin patch to 30,000 last year when the farm doubled the size of its ice skating rink.
R.A.M. Farms is hoping to extend its holiday season and hours of operation in preparation for an even busier season this year and filed a request to amend its use permit with the Stanislaus County Department of Planning and Community Development in order to do so.
The farm is looking to extend the operating season for the pumpkin patch and corn maze to begin on the last Friday in September through Oct. 31 or the first weekend of November if Halloween falls on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Hours would remain the same (8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.), with Friday included as part of the weekend (8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Sunday). Special corn maze events could be scheduled until 10 p.m. during the last two weeks of October. Seasonal activities would include movies under the stars, with films shown on an outdoor screen starting at dusk on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through October.
The project would also extend the operating season for the ice skating rink from the weekend before Thanksgiving to Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday after the third weekend of January). Hours of operation would be extended until 10 p.m. daily. Special events could include, but are not limited to, private parties and after-hours skating for employees.
As part of the permit amendment process, the County will hold a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Julien Elementary School, 1924 E. Canal Dr. in Turlock. The purpose of the meeting is to inform the public of R.A.M. Farms' intent to stay open longer and allow for input from neighbors about the request.
R.A.M. Farms owners and operators Karen and Ron Macedo initiated a petition to gather signatures in support of the farm staying open later. The Macedos plan to bring the petition to the neighborhood meeting as a show of community-wide support for the operation.
"We've received almost 600 signatures so far, with 200 comments," said Ron Macedo on Thursday afternoon. "It's just an amazing response so far."
The comments left on the online petition endorse R.A.M. Farms and the family-friendly entertainment it offers.
"In a community with few options for families, R.A.M. Farms has created an opportunity to regroup and enjoy family nights again. It's a safe and affordable alternative and I support allowing them to operate until 10 p.m. and I also support their movie nights. Please consider the benefit R.A.M. brings to our community," wrote Anjelica Locke in the comments section of the online petition.
Although a number of community members are in support of R.A.M. Farms operating its seasonal activities, the County has received a few complaints from neighbors of the farm.
Ron Macedo said he hopes to work with the farm's neighbors to help mitigate any concerns they may have. The farm is also planning a few improvements that are expected to help with traffic and noise. Parking improvements include increasing parking lot spaces from 28 to 56 on site and widening lanes within the parking boundary. The site also has an overflow parking area. A parking boundary fence will be constructed and new parking signage to direct the flow of traffic.
R.A.M Farms is also constructing a 100 by 80 feet temporary structure.
"We're looking forward to a great season," said Macedo. "We're making some fabulous improvements, a tent covering and in the parking lot."