Pumpkin patch seeks to revive fall traditions

Staff writer

Kristi Unruh, rural Goessel, said two main thoughts led to the creation of her family’s farm business, Papa’s Pumpkin Patch, several years ago. First, pumpkins should come from a field, not a store, and second, families should have a place to get together for fun.

“My kids and I used to get our pumpkins at the store,” she said. “But we thought that was just wrong. Pumpkins should come from a field.”

Unruh said she and her mother, Sharon Unruh, planted that first acre of pumpkins behind their house in 2006. Five years later the patch has grown into a family business with 80 acres of fall crops and approximately 2,000 pumpkins grown yearly.

“The first year a lot of people came over to pick pumpkins,” Unruh said. “I was personally surprised, but it turned out to be something we really enjoyed doing together.”

The second reason the Unruh’s created Papa’s Pumpkin Patch was to enable other families to enjoy affordable activities together, just as their family enjoyed getting together to work on the pumpkin patch business.

“I guess that is the main reason we kept going once we got started,” Unruh said. “I came from a large family and we have a large family now. It is just hard to get everyone together and find something fun to do that is affordable.”

Admission to Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is free. Many activities there are also free, including a tire climbing pile, wagon rides, a barrel ride, petting zoo, tire slide, corn shelling, kernel play, picture boards, and a beanbag toss.

Pumpkins sell for a small fee according to weight at the time picked. There is also a minimal charge for the pumpkin slingshot, air gun targets, and the corn maze. An inexpensive meal-deal featuring pork grown right on the Unruh farm is available on open days.

“We try to keep everything at a minimal price just so people can come out and have fun without spending a lot of money. It’s all about the fun,” Unruh said.

She said a high point each year for those working at the patch was visiting with repeat customers and seeing school groups.

“It’s just always so much fun to see the excitement on kid’s faces as they get out here and explore what all there is to do,” she said.

Unruh said most of the patch’s customers come from Newton, Wichita, and Hesston, but more and more were coming from the Hillsboro area and Marion County.

“We had a family from Texas here,” she said. “They came to visit relatives in the area and the whole family came out to spend some time together.”

Unruh said her family enjoys the time they spend working together to run the pumpkin business.

Most of the planting is done by father and mother, Gerald “Pete” and Sharon Unruh. Other family members help as they can, even Jeremy Unruh, Pete and Sharon Unruh’s oldest son, lives in France, yet manages all the website work.

Brandon Unruh, Kristi’s husband, along with her and their five children, helps with harvest, irrigation, and sales.

Sara and husband Brad Hiebert, Hesston, and Shanna and husband Eric Peters, Kansas City, and their children, also help with sales and during the month the farm is open to the public.

“Brad and Sara are the ones who design and create the maze,” Unruh said. “They design it and we plant in a grid and then cut according to that.”

This year the maze was planted in sorghum instead of corn, which withstood the summer drought better.

“We’ve been pleased with the pumpkin crop this year, even with the weather,” she said. “It’s always exciting to see what’s out there, under the vines.”

The biggest customer-picked pumpkin from the field so far this year weighed 43.5 pounds.

“It was picked by a little boy and he was proud as punch of his find,” Unruh said. “They brought it up in a wheelbarrow and it was quite a load.”

Unruh said there are 12 wagons and five wheelbarrows to help pumpkin patch customers find their field treasures.

Papa’s Pumpkin Patch opened for the season Sept. 30 and will stay open through Sunday. Hours are 1 to 6 p.m. Friday. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Those who wish to come at other times can make special appointments.

Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is on Facebook and online at http://papaspumpkinpatchks.com.

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