It’s a familiar sight in fall all across America and Facebook timelines: families posing on haybales, children screaming in delight in cornfield mazes, and people picking out the ever-popular fall gourd.
Pumpkin patches are a traditional place for family fun and to decide which pumpkins will transform into the best jack-o-lanterns. However, with the world still reeling from a pandemic, will the patches still be a good place to get a pumpkin?
The short answer is “yes.”
Globally, $1.5 billion pumpkins are sold every year from patches to grocery stores. They’re grown on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. In neighboring San Joaquin County, 59,900 tons of pumpkins were harvested in 2019 with an estimated worth of $24.8 million.
“We started doing (the pumpkin patch) last year,” said David Trifilo, co-owner of Trifilo Garden Center in Murphys. “We still have the nursery and plants going, so we don’t have a whole massive pumpkin patch. But we like doing a little medium-sized one for the kids. There’s not really a patch around here.”
Trifilo said that pumpkins are still available at grocery stores, but there’s something different about going to a pumpkin patch.
“I just remember when I was a kid it was cool to go to the patch and pick out your own pumpkin,” he said.
The modest pumpkin patch at Trifilo’s boasts fall décor and a variety of pumpkins (think not orange).
“The biggest thing for us is having a lot of different types of pumpkins,” Trifilo said. “It’s not just your typical, run-of-the-mill pumpkin. There are some very unique ones. I’m the type of guy that likes to get the crazy looking pumpkin that’s green and bumpy, funky looking.”
Trifilo said that since it’s possible to buy pumpkins at the store, his garden center tries to give customers something different.
Compared to last year, when his shop had its first pumpkin patch, Trifilo said sales of pumpkins are going quite well this year, especially given the fact that the family-owned business has had to cut its hours to adjust to the impacts from the pandemic.
However, they have done well in helping customers get set up with home gardens since more people are opting to grow their own fruits and vegetables at home.
In Burson, Dodasa Ranch has a pumpkin patch with a lot to offer. For an admission price of $5 per person, patrons receive a hayride to the pumpkin patch to pick a pumpkin off the vine (at an extra cost), a petting zoo, a giant slide, hoppy balls, a tire pyramid and cow train. For the additional price of tickets, visitors to Dodasa can participate in paint ball, archery, a climbing wall, a mechanical bull, gemstone panning, face painting and a pumpkin blaster. This is the first time in four years since the Dodasa Ranch Pumpkin Patch has been held.
“We’ve done it off and on since 2008,” said Don Parker, owner of Dodasa Ranch, a family-run business. “We hadn’t done it in about four years. It’s a labor of love thing.”
Parker said they started hearing from folks who were wanting the pumpkin patch to return. In years past, he said they would tend to lose money on the endeavor since they couldn’t get the word out as effectively as they wanted. Thanks to the advent of Facebook, they’re able to reach a much broader audience.
“The people that know about us and come here, they come and have a great time,” Parker said. “We can’t do everything we’ve done in the past like gunfight reenactments and live music. We didn’t have the money to go all out this year.”
Still, it’s a chance for families to get out and enjoy a fall atmosphere.
Regarding whether kids can still get out to go trick-or-treating, Trifilo said pumpkins can help if families opt to stay home this year.
“I feel like being at home and safe it’s at least something for the kids to do if they’re not going trick-or-treating. You still get some of the fun of Halloween decorating the pumpkin at home,” Trifilo said. “It’s always fun. I always liked doing that as a kid.”
In order to keep patrons and employees safe, Trifilo said they are requiring masks and social distancing at their store.
Trifilo Garden Center is located at 88 CA-4 in Murphys.
Dodasa Ranch is located at 5059 Carol Lane in Valley Springs.