As summer turns to fall, many people start to think about buying pumpkins and for many Corridor families, that involves a trip to Bloomsbury Farm west of Cedar Rapids.
Sammy Petersen, 30, and her sister, Jess, manage Bloomsbury Farm, along with their parents, Karen and Dave Petersen, who own the property and business.
Sammy Petersen is part of the sixth generation to grow up on her family’s farm near Atkins.
The farm is still a working farm. “My dad farms corn and soybeans,” she said.
Over the past 30 years, the family has grown a small side business into a large-scale, agri-tourism destination. After starting a greenhouse and landscaping business in the early 1990s, the Petersen family business never really slowed down — but it has evolved.
“My mom was a florist and had the greenhouse business, and it slowly morphed into more agri-tourism,” Petersen said. “In 2004, a tornado wiped out the greenhouse business, and we decided not to rebuild that. Instead, it became Bloomsbury Farm, and we’ve grown every year since then. The four of us work very closely together on basically every aspect of the business. We have such a passion for it — and it’s fun to work together.”
The Petersen sisters both attended Iowa State University. Upon graduation, they each moved around a bit with other professional ventures, gaining experience before returning home to help run and grow the family business.
Today, Bloomsbury Farm is a popular Eastern Iowa destination, hosting the complete outdoor farm experience. People of all ages can play games, see and pet animals, and much more, with lots of photo ops built in.
The farm hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year — the most popular is Autumn Days, which runs through the month of October. Autumn Days offers families a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, hayrack rides, a petting zoo, a super slide, a corn maze, pig races, duck races, a jumping pillow and more.
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“We have 12 acres of pumpkins,” Petersen said. “It’s a fall tradition for many families in the area. They love to play around the farm and enjoy the wide-open space.”
The fun doesn’t end at dusk.
Screaming Acres is open beginning at 7 p.m. each Friday and Saturday in October and features four haunted attractions. The Slaughterhouse is a two-story corn crib. The Sinister Silo, opened in 2019, is a 3-D monster-themed haunt inside a grain bin. Cell Block C is an indoor zombie apocalypse-themed haunt.
And the most popular stop — the haunted cornfield.
“It’s very creepy,” Petersen said. “And the whole night is a fun experience — you get in line for whichever attraction you want, and we have in-line entertainment, food, wine and beer. It’s really an experience from the moment you step foot on the farm.”
In recent years, Bloomsbury Farm has added other seasonal events. “Our main season is fall, but we have a lot of other great events, too,” Petersen said.
Each spring, Bloomsbury Farms holds Baby Animal Days, another popular draw.
“We have all types of baby animals on the farm to pet and feed — chicks, ducklings, pot belly pigs, calves, lambs and goats,” Petersen said. “Who doesn’t love a baby goat?”
In addition to its large community-oriented events, Bloomsbury Farm hosts a number of private corporate events, school tours, teambuilding events and even a few weddings.
The farm can provide catering and a full-service bar, with space for as few as 12 guests or as many as 700 to 800 people.
The Petersen family needs a lot of help to keep the business running. Bloomsbury Farm employs around 60 seasonal employees and around 80 ghosts and ghouls to run the haunted attractions each fall.
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“We have great people who work for us,” Petersen said. “We’re a close-knit family — we take a lot of pride in our employees.”
Like many small businesses, Bloomsbury Farm has faced some challenges this year with the coronavirus pandemic and the recent derecho windstorm. But the impacts, so far, have been minimal.
“As a family, we’re optimists, and we’re always looking on the positive side of things,” Petersen said. “We have always offered a safe space for our employees and customers to come and build memories together.
“With our wide-open space, we have a great opportunity to continue to welcome people out to the farm in a very safe environment.”
Bloomsbury Farm has positioned handwashing and sanitizing stations around the property.
“Just like before, we are always very intentional about keeping our farm clean and encouraging safety,” Petersen said.
As the upcoming fall season kicks into high gear, the Petersens are optimistic this season — and the years ahead — will be just as fun and entertaining as they’ve always been at Bloomsbury Farm — or maybe even more so.
“The sky is the limit. We’re always looking for new opportunities to grow,” Petersen said. “My parents are dreamers — they took chances and brought the business to where it is today, and with my sister and I involved, it’s only going to grow from here on out. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
• Address: 3260 69th St., Atkins
• Phone: (319) 446-7667
• Hours/Admission: Check website
• Website: bloomsburyfarm.com