This article was previously published 10-23-2010
The pumpkin patch is a time-honored icon of autumn. Bright mums, colorful gourds, pumpkins and straw bales dot lawns around the northern hemisphere at this time of year. Schoolchildren enjoy a break from their studies, piling into wagons for hayrides, apple cider and of course, pumpkins. They learn about how farms operate, and how farmers grow pumpkins and vegetables in a fun way that isn't boring at all.
To locate a nearby pumpkin patch, look no further than DG's Go Gardening feature. It is a searchable database of destinations of interest to gardeners. I was able to locate Wurth Farms near Paducah, Kentucky by using the handy zip code search. A quick phone call and I was set for a tour the next morning. Wurth Farms qualifies for several of our Go Gardening categories, as they are not only a pumpkin patch, but a greenhouse, farm stand and CSA as well.
I pulled in to the neatly groomed grounds just as a couple of school busses were unloading an eager group of pre-schoolers. Tractors were waiting with trailers filled with straw bales. Everyone was quickly loaded and seated; and Lisa Wurth Grief graciously allowed me to tag along. She said that they never dreamed that the pumpkin patch would become so popular. When they decided to convert the farm from raising burley tobacco 15 years ago, they had their doubts that enough people would visit to make the operation profitable. Along with the pumpkin patch, they raise mums, flower and vegetable plants, 65 acres of tomatoes; have several farm stands, and a CSA program.
The hayride tractors pull the trailers through the farm and down to the large pumpkin patch at the bottom of the hill. Friendly cattle observe the activity and quietly return to grazing. For many of these children, it is the closest they've ever been to a live cow. Lisa explained that the pumpkin patch and hayride is a novel experience for most children. While she and I grew up on farms and were used to trekking fields and playing in creeks, kids today tend to live in urban areas, or at best, subdivisions. Everything was an adventure. The kids explored the pumpkin patch, found caterpillars and got a bit of a lesson in botany. Lisa gathered them together, showed them a pumpkin flower, and explained that pumpkins have girl flowers and boy flowers, but only the girl flowers would grow a pumpkin. Everyone got his or her own pumpkin seed and a tiny, pre-schooler sized pumpkin. They loaded up the wagons and the tractors pulled them back to the barn where they had a snack of cookies and apple cider while seated on strawbales inside.
Lisa explained that school groups are scheduled through the week, but on weekends, families can visit. On weekends in October, Wurth's has hayrides to the pumpkin patch, concessions, live music and a petting zoo. There are fresh caramel apples (with their own secret recipe) and picnic tables under the shade trees. Pumpkins, straw bales and mums are arranged everywhere for photo opportunities. It is a great family-friendly activity and Lisa thinks that is what keeps folks returning year after year. She told me a story of a grandmother who brought her 10 and 12-year-old granddaughters the very first year, and that they return each season, even though the granddaughters are now grown and married. Some families come to pick out the family Jack-o-lantern and others come to select pumpkins and mums for a lawn display. Whatever the reason, pumpkin patches give families a chance to do something together and helps children understand that produce does not magically appear on the supermarket shelves. She thinks that this is part of the reason for the industry's rise in popularity. Urbanization has detached families from agriculture; and the pumpkin patch, greenhouse visits and outdoor activities, are a way that schools and parents can help kids form connections to a way of life that they may never see otherwise.
Wurth's start planning for the pumpkin season when their pumpkins are planted in June. They time the maturity date so that pumpkins are ripe and ready for the first weekend in October. The pumpkin patch is open for the month of October, but preparations behind the scenes for most of the year, makes the month of activity flow like clockwork.
Go Gardening is a fantastic resource for locating a pumpkin patch near you. We encourage you to search the database and locate a destination close to where you live. If you know of a pumpkin patch, Christmas tree farm, vegetable stand, or nursery that we do not have listed, we encourage you to add it, or use the Contact Us link at the bottom of every page to let us help you. We'd love for you to add images to your favorite listing, there is a link on each page that allows you to do so.
Show off your day of fun and let others know about your favorite destinations by adding images. Rate your visits so that others will know what to expect. If you are a vendor with a gardening destination that you'd like for us to include, let us know. We'll be delighted to assist you in getting your page set up. We'll help you with your management tools and show you how to post a message to potential visitors.
Go Gardening can help you locate places to visit as you travel and the handy map on each page makes finding them easy. Botanical gardens, parks and display gardens are listed. Gardeners can plan a garden-themed vacation, find a location for an outdoor wedding or simply visit a U-pick orchard, pumpkin patch or Christmas tree farm. Go Gardening is a handy tool and we hope that you'll locate a new destination, or add your favorites for others to find.
A special thanks to Lisa Wurth Grief and all of the frendly staff at Wurth Farms in Paducah, KY.