Picking from the Pumpkin Patch
Like many families, every October mine goes to pick pumpkins. The boys wander the pumpkins laid out in rows across a grassy field, picking up the one they want.
Living in eastern North Carolina, it’s hard to find a pumpkin patch. They are high-maintenance crops to grow in my part of the state because of the heat and humidity, a perfect combination for diseases that love pumpkins. As a result, local places bring in pumpkins grown elsewhere, and that’s what we’ve bought every year.
Until this year.
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Campbell Lane Specialty Crops farm opened its pumpkin patch to the public this year, giving my boys a chance to race amongst the vines in search of the perfect pumpkin. My 3-year-old showed me many “baby pumpkins.” We looked at the flowers blooming on the vine and talked about how a new pumpkin would grow there. I lost count of how many times the youngest picked up a pumpkin only to realize it was attached to a vine. The boys filled our wagon with orange, white, and variegated pumpkins, all cut from the vine.
Roger and Susan Batts first started growing pumpkins on this land that belonged to Roger’s grandfather back in 2013. They grew for three seasons but living almost 30 miles from the farm made managing this intensive crop challenging, so they gave it up.
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Having moved into his grandfather’s house across the street from the farm, the couple started looking at ways to make the farm appealing to the next generations. One of their sons lives nearby and is working in the agriculture field. The couple wanted the farm to be appealing to their grandchildren, enticing them to keep the land in the family. In 2021 they started back into the pumpkin farming business.
Back in 2013, their first year raising pumpkins, they didn’t make any money. By the third year, they cleared about $5. Any profits those three years were put into buying equipment needed to grow the crops, which they kept even though the land was being rented by a local farmer.
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Realizing the farm needed to be profitable so their grandchildren could one day support themselves from the land, the Battses decided to turn back to pumpkins. They sold both wholesale and direct to customers at the farm.
“We enjoy picking out different varieties and seeing what people like,” said Susan, surrounded by a rainbow of pumpkin colors. This year about 90% of their customers were people they knew, so the family is working on marketing ideas to bring new customers to the farm next season.
They’ll have at least three returning customers, as my boys now know the thrill of choosing and cutting their own pumpkin from the vine.