After growing up on the 50-acre Cox family farm, Lily, Aaron, and Lucas Cox-Richard are now taking on more responsibilities. Parents Eric Cox and Gina Cox-Richard are passing down the torch and entrusting their three grown children with the duties of the farm. It's at 15621 Braddock Road in Centreville and was purchased in 1979, the same year that Lily, the oldest of the Cox children, was born.
"Most people wouldn’t like to work so close with their families, but it always gives us something to talk about," said Lily. Our family dinners usually turn into Fall Festival planning meetings.” Added Aaron, 23: "We get along really well; they're my best friends. We've always enjoyed working on the farm."
As children, they looked forward to the annual Fall Festival (2004 marks the 32nd year) because, although it meant lots of work, it also meant fun. "The Centreville community has always been fantastically supportive and loyal," said Aaron. "Dozens of our friends have worked for Cox Farms over the years, and even more of the people who've worked with us have become our friends. Now they bring their own children to the Fall Festival."
The siblings worked in the ticket and concession stands and even helped with grounds upkeep and maintenance. They remember getting home from school, dropping off their backpacks at the ticket counter, and running off to work.
In school, they recall taking field trips to the farm for the hayrides — “the reason the Fall Festival was started” — said Lily.
All three children take their duties very seriously — working usually seven days a week, rain or shine. However, despite the hard work, they say that they love working there. Lily says her favorite part is watching all the children run around having fun.
Lily, 25, graduated from Chantilly High. She studied art at California College of the Arts, graduating in 2001. She does marketing and graphic design for the farm and heads the concessions. In the “off” season, she participates in art shows.
Aaron graduated from Centreville High. He attended Smith College in Massachusetts, studying foreign languages. After graduating in 2003, he returned to help his parents run the farm. Aaron works mainly in human resources, hiring people and placing them where they're needed most.
“I'M GLAD my parents gave me such great responsibility; it makes it easier on them,” he said. His foreign language background also helps him better communicate with the employees.
The youngest, Lucas, is 21. Like Aaron, he attended Centreville High and is studying horticulture at Iowa State University. “This is the first year, since Lily graduated from high school, that all three of us have been here for the Festival,” he said. After graduation, he'll be in charge of the greenhouses.
During the Festival, Lucas prevents problems and fixes mishaps."I have been waiting to run this business since the day I was born," he said."This is what I've always wanted to do."
All three children took a semester off from school to help with the Fall Festival and relieve their parents of some of the stress."There were six kids in my family and nine in Eric's," said Gina."Working with family and friends has always been a key part of our business. We always hoped our three kids would want to be involved in the business, but we never imagined all three of them would be this enthusiastic about it. As parents and business owners, we could't be happier."