Farm converts a portion of its land into fall adventure each October
Richard and Colette Witt’s Pickin’ Patch farm can be found just outside of Marionville, Mo.
Richard started the fall adventure on their family farm in 1993.
“Started out, moved to the farm and tried to grow everything and found out I couldn’t keep up with everything. The fall stuff was kinda fun and you could just leave it out and let people go pick it. It didn’t have to be brought in right away like strawberries and other things do that spoil if you leave them out too long. Kids just love going out and running in the patch. It’s like an Easter egg hunt to find just the right pumpkin. Kids get a lot of fun out of it,” Richard explained.
“It’s always been a love of mine just growing things and I always wanted to have a farm where I could grow more,” Richard said.
“All the knowledge I have of anything going on around here is what he’s shared with me. I have learned a lot in the last six or seven years,” Colette added.
“We do tours for school groups, civic organizations and private parties. All the little kids that come get a story read to them about pumpkins and how pumpkins grow. We set up different little venuettes for photo opportunities.”
They have two pumpkin patches designated for school groups so every child gets to leave with a pumpkin.
“They get to go out and actually pick the pumpkin off the vine,” Colette said.
“It’s grown from a small acre or two acres to now we do 15 acres and added all the scarecrows and obstacle course and mazes to it. Started out we didn’t even think about doing the groups but it ended up turning out really well. We had preschools want to come out and do something for the little guys during the day and then they would all go back and tell their brothers and sisters what they did during the day and they’d come back on the weekend. Ended up having the school kids come during the week and the families on the weekend turned into a really nice overall balance of business coming through,” Richard explained.
Pickin’ Patch also offers tractor-drawn hay rides.
“That’s how we get out there to the fields; we take the tractor and they climb on the wagon and we take them out through a course and stop at the obstacle course and the maze and then the pumpkin field to pick a pumpkin so it makes about a 45- to 60-minute outing into the fields.”
The maze is not your typical corn maze; it is made out of milo.
“We cut a pathway into that. It’s not as fancy as some of the bigger mazes where it’s a big pattern but it’s a fun little maze,” Richad said. “We build a whirlpool maze out of straw which is real fun for the little guys because it goes all the way in and the way we construct it, it’s a double spiral and without turning around you end up going to the center and it reverses and you come back out. It’s a lot of fun, even the adults have fun running through it.”
There is a barn with an area that in their open season holds goats, chickens and maybe even a pig for the kids to meet.
“Any group that comes to visit us is welcome to come in here and play or have a picnic,” Colette added. “Most of the schools that come do picnic.”
Richard and Colette typically have 20 to 25 employees during their busy season to help work in the fields, in the barns and drive tractors. However, when the busy season is over, the work is not done.
“We have asparagus in the spring and we did sweet corn this summer but otherwise the off season is growing it for the fall,” Richard said. “As far as through the course of the growing season, there is no such thing as an off season. We plant in June and between planting, weeding, bug control, the heat of the summer and everything; if you aren’t careful bugs can wipe out your crops, weed control is always a challenge and invariably you can’t count on Mother Nature for the rain so we have to run an irrigation tube to run them water.”
Richard said the pumpkins only take up a small part of the farm and they may expand the fields some but Colette explained, “But as far as adding other features…we like the niche we fit. We have big schools that come here for the sole purpose that they know that they’re going to be the only ones here while they’re visiting instead of going someplace where you have your class and 500 other children. For us that’s been a drawing card. These schools come and they know that their class is going to be the only one and they get our attention at that point.”
“If we did too much more it would be more to take on and be more challenging for us to keep up with anyway,” Richard said.
Richard and Colette, who have been married since August 2012, also feel the size they are gives it a personal touch that makes them unique.