Puyallup: News

Third-generation farmer continues family’s legacy

Double R Farms co-owner Geri Ruiz cleans gourds last week at her Puyallup farm in preparation for its weekend opening.
Double R Farms co-owner Geri Ruiz cleans gourds last week at her Puyallup farm in preparation for its weekend opening. Staff photographer

Geri Ruiz grew up on a vegetable farm and saw firsthand just how hard farmers work. She went off to college and became an accountant, determined to pave her own way in the world.

After earning her degree and working as an accountant for 10 years, Ruiz and her husband, Ric, had a daughter, Ashley. Wanting to spend the most time possible with her daughter, the couple decided to open their own farm, a pumpkin patch, on the family farm Geri grew up on. After Geri lost both of her parents, she and her brother inherited the family farm, located at 5820 44th St. E.

Geri’s father, George Richen, grew produce on the farm, just as his father did. Richen farm was established in 1937, as the concrete slab is stamped with in the family barn.

After Ashley was born in 2002, the following fall Ric and Geri started their pumpkin patch.

“It works around our schedule,” Geri said. “I’m able to take her to school and be home when she gets home.”

Originally when Ric suggested to Geri they should start a pumpkin patch, Geri’s first reaction was “do you know how much work that is?” Geri remembered just how hard her family worked on the one-time vegetable farm.

But, to keep her family’s legacy going, Geri jumped on board. Double R, for Geri’s maiden name of Richen and her husband’s last name of Ruiz, was established.

The first year Double R Farms was in business, Geri and Ric used pop-up tents and had their pumpkins in a muddy pasture.

Needless to say, it has been a learning experience for the couple when it comes to owning and operating the pumpkin patch.

After a windstorm toppled the pop-up tents and they received some complaints about the mud, the couple now put their pumpkins on grass, and have cleared out a barn on the property to provide a permanent spot to sell gourds, house their scale, and more.

Long before October, Ric and Geri are hard at work preparing for the fall festivities.

“We plant the seeds in the greenhouse in May or June,” Geri said. “We wait for them to be big enough to transplant, and then plant them in the field. From May 1 to Oct. 31, we’re working hard. It’s not just a one-month deal.”

The hard work the couple put in leading up to the pumpkin harvest all becomes worth it when they open up their farm to customers at the beginning of October.

“We have tons of great customers,” Geri said. “It’s really cool to see people who come back year after year. It’s neat to see the kids grow each year.”

As with other farmers, the success of their farm and crops depends on the weather. This year, Geri says they have fewer pumpkins, but the pumpkins are bigger from the warm and dry weather. Once the farm is open in October, bad weather or windstorms play a huge role in profits for the farm.

“You have to be able to roll with stuff,” Geri said. “Every year is different.”

Geri says that without the help of her husband’s family, Double R Farms wouldn’t have had 13 years of success at their pumpkin patch.

While Geri has changed her job title from accountant to farmer, she says her experience has helped her with the financial side of owning her own business.

“I’m able to balance things because of my accounting background,” she said.

A corn maze, free hay rides, and small gourds will also be available in addition to pumpkins.

Double R Farm is now open for the season, and is open 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The farm will also host a Bonanza Barbeque every weekend in October, serving BBQ goodies and warm beverages.