Farmington • Most Halloween fanatics purchase pumpkins for carving and decoration at their local grocery store. A few enjoy growing their own in backyard gardens. But some opt to find a local farmer such as Farmington’s DeVan Pack, who allows them to pick their own.
Pack and his family opened an eight-acre pumpkin patch on 1700 Glover Lane near the Farmington Bay Bird Refuge to the public last Friday in what has been a tradition for the past decade. Visitors go into the field and pick out their own jack-o-lantern.
School groups and senior citizen organizations come to the patch during the day with families visiting in the evenings and on Saturday.
For those who are not part of a group, Pack charges 30 cents a pound. He provides a tent area, parking, carts, a small maze made from hay bales and creates paths so folks can get their pumpkins to and from the field. He charges pre-schools or area schools $2 a visit, that includes a talk on farming and the chance to pick a single pumpkin.
Some make near heroic efforts to participate in the Halloween fun.
Pack tells the story of two flight attendants who were on a layover in Salt Lake City and heard about the patch. The field was a bit muddy at the time so they both took off their shoes and walked through the patch in their nylon stockings to pick out the right pumpkin.
“Some people wait until it is raining and muddy to come out,” said Pack, whose family has been farming in Davis County for about 60 years. “Parents are appreciative of the opportunity come out...Monday nights are crazy...People seem to enjoy being out in the open. We get seniors groups that come to look at the pumpkins and the birds [at adjacent Farmington Bay].”
Pack and his family began raising pumpkins, which are technically classified as a fruit because they grow on vines, 22 years ago. Until about eight or 10 years ago, they simply sold their product to stores. Then came the “pick-it-yourself” patch.
“We have a lot of fun with Halloween,” said the farmer, who labors 15 to 18 hours a day much of the farming season. “We do talk to the kids about how we plant pumpkins, how we grow them and how we prepare the land. We talk about the many different varieties we grow on the farm. We plant about 10 to 12 varieties of pumpkins, seven or eight varieties of winter squash and, because of my mother, plant eight different kinds of gourds.”
Visitors can also purchase squash and gourds from bins at the patch.
One to three members of the Pack family work the patch. He usually hires eight young people during the time the patch is open, having them work every other night so they can get their homework done on their nights off.
Pack called this an “OK year” for growing pumpkins, though he said heat was tough on the crop. He is also worried about a field planted this year that served as a parking lot a year ago. He said the plants didn’t grow well there because the soil was probably too compacted.
He said it takes about two weeks to set up the patch and another week to take it down.
Most of the patch visitors probably know little about what goes on behind the scenes at the farm. They are no doubt grateful for the chance to add a little fun to Halloween and perhaps educate their kids just a bit that stuff actually has to be raised on a farm and doesn’t magically show up in the aisles of the local grocery store.