Great Pumpkin: Patches in Minnesota
Golden corn, bright red apples and blazing orange pumpkins color the fall in Minnesota. Soon, pumpkins will line front porches and steps, ready to be carved for Halloween, each one with its own look – big or small, tall or round. Finding just the right one is an adventure all its own.
The best spot to get a pumpkin in Minnesota is straight from the patch. Across the state, farms and orchards offer pick-your-own events all through the fall. Many host a range of fall activities including hay rides, petting zoos and corn mazes for the whole family.
“People find pick-your-own to be so much fun,” said Teresa Rongitsch of Tom’s Pumpkin Farm in Lindstrom, MN, a 15 acre patch offering more than 20 varieties of pumpkins from late September through October 31. “It’s so different from getting a pumpkin from a store where they all look the same. Here, we’re a real farm. You can choose your own pumpkin and take it home straight from the patch.”
Tom’s Pumpkin Farm, owned by Teresa and her husband Tom, is one of the largest in the state. For just $3.99 each, choose any size pumpkin from the field.
“Every customer has a different way of picking out a pumpkin,” said Teresa. “Some are looking for the tall ones, some are looking for the squattier, the perfect round and some want the goofiest looking ones. We offer many varieties, and each year I try to find something new to add.” This year, they planted Dark Night, a variety that’s the color of an acorn squash but the shape of a pumpkin.
Tom’s has offered u-pick pumpkins for more than 15 years and has been growing pumpkins for nearly 40 years.
“We started with a small patch, then it got bigger and bigger. We used to wholesale our pumpkins, but one year we had too many. That’s when I put out a sign along the road. The response was tremendous,” said Teresa. “Over the years, we’ve seen families that come back each year. Years ago, an engaged couple came out. After that, we saw them bring a new baby or bring their children as they grew. It’s so much fun to see families come back again and again.”
When you arrive at the patch, spend some time picking your pumpkin carefully. If you’re picking one for carving, just about any that catches your eye will do, but avoid flat spots or indentations that will make it roll over on your front porch. Sugar or pie pumpkins, the smaller roundish variety, are the best for baking because they’re sweeter and less stringy than other types. Look for one that’s firm, has a bright color and contains no bruises or soft spots.
“For carving, I look for bigger pumpkins with the thick handles,” Teresa said. “I always tell visitors – go to the end of the patch and work your way back, but a lot of times they’ll start at the beginning and they’ll get a whole wagon load and pull it along the field, changing pumpkins along the way as they see ones they like. Of course, then they have to turn around and pull it all the way back!”
No matter how far you have to pull your own wagon load, it will be worth the experience. At many patches, like Tom’s, you can also enjoy the afternoon at a corn maze. Others offer hay rides and fall festival events.
“One year we had a group of girlfriends in their fifties, who all drove out together, all dressed up. They got out in the patch and were running around, having fun like children. When one of them tripped over a vine, she was just rolling on the ground laughing. They all started laughing,” Teresa recalled. “Memories are made here. This is what makes fall so much fun.”
You-Pick Patches Across the State
Fall just isn’t the same if your sidewalk or front porch isn’t lined with pumpkins, and nothing’s better than searching for your own. Pick-your-own patches are open across the state. Here are a few to try:
- Tom’s Pumpkin Farm in Lindstrom, MN, offers over 20 types of pumpkins – from prizewinning to pie pumpkins – as well as squash, gourds and Indian corn. On the weekends, watch for face painting, a farm market, corn maze and refreshments.
- In Frazee, MN, just south of Detroit Lakes on Hwy 10, Maple Hills Orchard offers you-pick pumpkins beginning in mid-September, including both carving and baking varieties. The orchard also has nine varieties of apples available for purchase or pick, as well as honey and cut comb.
- Head to Pleasant Valley Orchard in Schafer, MN (between Chisago City and Taylors Falls) for pick-your-own pumpkins, available several weekends in the fall. The orchard offers hay rides out to the pick-your-own field, weather permitting. Other times of the fall, pumpkins are available in the orchard’s pumpkin stack. Plan ahead for live music in the orchard, and the orchard’s popular brat feed and ice cream social.
- Along Hwy 19 in Northfield, find a pick-your-own patch at Bridgewater Produce Farm, along with hayrides and a corn maze. The farm also sells a full range of produce, including apples, squash, potatoes, onions and other varieties in season.
- In Wyoming, MN, Lendt’s Pumpkin Patch offers 40 acres of pick-your-own pumpkins through Oct. 31. The patch also has a selection of large prizewinning pumpkins.
- In Dayton, MN, near Maple Grove, Dehn’s Pumpkins offers pick-your-own as well as a large selection of pre-picked pumpkins on its farm. A large corn maze and hay rides are available on weekends, weather permitting.
Be sure to call ahead before you go to check hours, pumpkin availability and schedule of events before you head out for the pumpkin hunt.
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