Pumpkin patches: more than meets the eye

Britt's Farm in Manhattan, Kansas is a local pumpkin patch where residents can purchase pumpkins and participate in a fun fall activity such as going into the two corn mazes of different difficulty levels. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

With the coming of fall, one thing tends to come to mind: pumpkin. Not real pumpkins, mind you, but rather everything that’s pumpkin spiced: pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice candle, pumpkin spice Oreos, etc.

There are several places in Manhattan, however, students can go to get a real pumpkin. Local pumpkin patches do not only provide seasonal decor, but also family-friendly entertainment like corn mazes and hay rides.

For pumpkin patch owners and workers like Andrea DeJesus, owner of A & H Farm and Pumpkin Patch, creating this fall experience takes a lot more than just watering pumpkin seeds for a few months.

“Preparation starts in June, when we start planting the pumpkins,” DeJesus said. “It’s surprising how much goes into it. We spend weeks trying to get everything ready.”

DeJesus said that A & H Farm, located at 1516 Collins Lane, grows up to 40 different kinds of pumpkins every year, and they sell thousands each season.

“We have all kinds of pumpkins,” DeJesus said. “We have pumpkins for pie, jack-o’-lanterns and any other reason you need a pumpkin, we have it.”

A & H Farm isn’t just about pumpkins, however.

“We have bouncy house, a corn pit, a giant slide, a petting zoo, a zip line, hayrack rides and also a zombie ride where you shoot paintball guns at the zombies,” DeJesus said.

With these extra activities and events comes extra work and maintenance, though. Angela Britt, co-owner of Britt’s Garden Acres, said the extra activities at pumpkin patches like hers require more responsibility and money.

“Upkeep is very important, but we also try to bring new things every year,” Britt said. “It can also be expensive. Last year, we got the jumping pillows and they cost around $20,000. This year, my husband made our big slide even bigger, and we have to continue to get baby animals for the petting zoo. Nobody wants to pet a full-grown cow.”

Britt said her farm, located at 1000 S. Scenic Drive, sells 20 different types of pumpkins and other produce. Fall is not the only season during which Britt’s sells seasonal decorations, though. In December, Britt’s sells homegrown Christmas trees.

With all its responsibilities, Britt said that Britt’s Garden Acres keeps her busy throughout the year.

“There is quite the lack of sleep,” Britt said. “I’m advertising for the patch all year round, and I have to continue advertising because being in a college town, every few years you have new people moving here and we have to be able to reach them as well.”

One constant concern for pumpkin patch owners is the weather. If it rains, the patches may have to shut down their outdoor events for safety reasons.

“It rained three straight days before opening day,” Britt said. “That kept us from putting out some of our activities.”

Despite all the challenges of operating a pumpkin patch, according Britt’s customer Eric Small the result is worth it.

“It’s definitely something to look forward to in the fall,” Small said. “There are a lot of fun things to do for everyone.”