Archive for June, 2015

The Princess and her Prince Farming: How Walters Pumpkin Patch became a destination for thousands each autumn

 

Carroll and Becky Walters live on the farm that includes the pumpkin patch.

Carroll and Becky Walters live on the farm that includes the pumpkin patch.

        Once up a time in the land of Kansas, there lived a young princess with her Prince Farming. 

         For many years, the princess tried to adapt to the rural way of life to no avail. The princess had been raised in the neighboring village, where folks went to work from 9 to 5 and then came home to their families. 

         The rural life was more difficult. She would work to saddle a horse so she could work cattle with the rest of the cowboys, but no sooner would she mount the horse than the saddle would come crashing to the ground with the princess right behind. And it didn’t take much intelligence to realize that anything with four legs that outweighs you by hundreds of pounds, has the potential to do you physical harm. 

         After the cattle were brought in, the princess would work her way in to the hired hands so that she, too, could help. Once she backed her way into a branding iron hanging on a fence, and all the cowboys laughed at her.  

         Even when she tried to work the ground driving a big green tractor, she would either take out long-established fence lines, or the hydraulics would come loose, or something else would go wrong. 

         The princess was no good at being a Prince Farming’s wife, ie hired hand. But then one day, she came upon a new plan: She would grow little pumpkinettes like the florists in the neighboring villages were using in the autumn.  

         She tilled and planted, fertilized and watered all her baby pumpkin plants throughout the spring and summer. When the harvest came, the princess picked buckets and buckets of miniature pumpkins and sold them one by one.  

         Then when the princess and the prince counted their gold coins, they realized the princess had made twice as much money as Prince Farming would have made on his milo for that same area.  

         At that time, the Prince should have locked the princess in the dungeon, and he could’ve lived happily ever after. And that would’ve been the end. But he didn’t, and this was just the beginning of a successful agritourism business.

This is pretty much how the Walters’ life started — a true story with minor embellishments!  We made $583 on that first year of selling pumpkins one by one, and they were the miniature pumpkins, which was twice as much as he would have made planting the same area with milo!

From then on, we kept adding more varieties, and then squashes and gourds. We had that “put together” family — two of his and two of mine — but the pumpkin patch was our fifth child we shared together.

We had many people inspire our the pumpkin patch’s growth. Carroll’s mom, Mazella, who lived here on the farm until her passing at the age of 95, was our greatest cheerleader. She watched as the pumpkin patch developed and encouraged us to “make a living” on this farm with our specialty crop.

Mazella was a great fly swatter and would open up the plastic bags that tended to stick together and stuff them into an old nail keg wooden bucket. The first pumpkin season after she passed from this life, we all would cry every time we had to open a plastic bag.   She was sorely missed.

One of my mentors was Norman Sundgren, who I loved talking “pumpkins” with. He was a grower of pumpkins, too! Another was Leland Seivley, who got me those first miniature pumpkin seeds so many years ago.

As I walked the field planting 10 acres of pumpkin seeds by hand in my younger days, I would cuss Leland for my back aches and thank him for getting me those first pumpkin seeds that started the Walters Pumpkin Patch.

Since 1988, school children have been visiting the pumpkin patch. Today, Walters Pumpkin Patch sees about 30,000 visitors annually during its seven-week season.

— Becky Walters