“On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch and flies through the air to bring toys to all the good little children. Wouldn’t you like to sit with me in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night and wait for the Great Pumpkin?” -Linus in The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.
This year my husband and I made a big deal of sitting down (well, attempting to) with our 16-month-old son to watch The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Now that he’s old enough to start understanding more, this seems to be the year to start trying to get him into some holiday traditions. And what a better way to kick off the fall/Halloween season than with a longstanding classic?
As we were watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think about how many pumpkin patches our state has available to its residents and visitors. There’s too many to name, but my research from the United States Department of Agriculture did lead me to some interesting stats. Did you know in 2013, Michigan had 6,600 acres of land dedicated specifically to growing pumpkins? And in 2015, Michigan was one of the nation’s top six pumpkin producers, growing 77 million pounds of pumpkins?
Certainly Macomb County must be a huge contributor to that number. According to the 2012 US Agriculture census, that year, there were 502 operating farms here, covering nearly 62,000 acres. This means 20 percent of land in Macomb County is active agriculture.
George DeBruyn Jr., a local grower who owns Michigan Pumpkin Producers (76040 McFadden Road) in Armada Township, contributes to those numbers. He has been in the pumpkin business for the last 35 years. Last year, his 40 acres dedicated to pumpkin growing produced approximately 30,000 pounds of pumpkins. Many of the pumpkins are sold on a roadside farm stand he has on the corner of Romeo Plank and Armada Center roads, but they are also distributed elsewhere.
“We sell to a lot of places, other food stands in both Macomb County and in Oakland (County),” he said, adding his business raises many different types: large, carving, baby, pie pumpkins and, of course, gourds.
“It’s a passion,” said DeBruyn.
In Washington Township, Westview Orchards also boasts two impressive pumpkin patches totaling 50 acres.
“The actual patch where families come to pick their carving pumpkin is about 10 acres in size,” said Katrina Roy, co-owner of Westview. “We plant another 40 acres on rented ground nearby and also pie pumpkins for school children to pick on their fall field trips too. So, altogether, we grow almost 50 acres of all the varieties of pumpkins – carving ones, huge ones (really gourds), gourds of all different shapes and sizes, white pumpkin, green ones, warty ones, striped ones and peachy colored ones too! And, of course, four different kinds of squash as well.”
Roy said the pumpkins are planted in late spring and start to harvest by the middle of September.
“By early October, we use our limb loppers to cut the stem of the pumpkin from the plant. This allows the stem to harden off, so it is sturdy when they are picked,” said Roy. “Then, we take our guests out there every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by tractor-driven wagon ride out to the patch. We have many wagons out there to carry their (guests) treasure back to the checkout point. Then they (the pumpkins) are weighed and customers pay according to the price per pound and weight of the pumpkin they picked.
During the week, Westview also offers free basic walking farm fun with u-pick apples or pumpkins.
Roy said ultimately, the pumpkin patches and all Westview has to offer visitors is for the children.
“The pumpkin patch and u-pick is all about the kids and their excitement for the holiday,” she said. “Kids come dressed in their costumes. They select a pumpkin that means something special to them. It’s about families sharing the hunt for that perfect pumpkin.”
And, sometimes, even for adults.
“We’ve even had marriage proposals in the pumpkin patch,” said Roy. “Last weekend we had a marriage proposal at our corn maze. And she said ‘yes.’ The farm is a place you can be creative, share memories, make lifelong memories with family and friends. All ages get in on the fun. All of us can take a little time to act like kids again and escape the stresses of everyday life. Let the farm rejuvenate family bonds and renew relationships.”
Sarah Cormier works for the Macomb County Executive Office as a communications specialist.