MALAGA — When Steve Scott planted a pumpkin patch on his Malaga farm eight years ago, he said he did it for the children. He still plants the pumpkin patch and makes a corn maze from field corn to show children a farm. But it’s also bringing in a quarter of his farm income.
With 1,500 to 1,800 people visiting Gau-Sco Produce and Pork Farm during a good October, it’s no surprise that the annual pumpkin patch and other farm activities have become a major part of Scott’s farm income. “It’s catching on,” said Scott. “More people want to come out to the country and it’s close to town.”
However, Scott said the job isn’t one he would recommend to many others. “It’s tons of work,” Scott said. “I’m like a slave. It takes a lot of time, just like everything takes time. You feel like a slave when you’re farming.”
Scott rotates his crops and said planning is one of the more time-consuming tasks. “I usually plan around the middle to the third week of May. I have so many other things going on like sweet corn or vegetables for the farmers market, it keeps you running from one place to another.”
“The thing about it is you don’t have to pick,” said Scott of pumpkin farming. “That’s where the advantage is.” Scott, who also has a booth through the season at the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market, says unlike market work, the pumpkins are more of a sure thing. “Having a pumpkin patch, you do the best you can and you watch the people come out and pick them. With raising the other crops, you have to pick them, and take them down to the market and hope that they (customers) buy it. You know that people are going to buy pumpkins. At the market you have so many other vendors, but out here you’re the only one who has pumpkins and a pumpkin patch. The return is far greater.”
Scott also sees the advantage it gives to children. “It’s such a unique area,” he said of the Malaga farm. “They just need to take advantage of getting out to the country. They don’t have it in town. At Walmart you pick a pumpkin and you have nothing but the pumpkin. Here at the farm you have an experience that will last a lifetime.”
However, like all farming, income from a pumpkin patch never is a sure thing. This fall, Scott had fewer pumpkins than normal and had to open a week later than previous years. He said he usually opens his pumpkin patch to the public on the first weekend in October. “I turned down a lot of extra income by not opening up,” he said, estimating he lost $1,000.
The weather made this a difficult year for the pumpkins. “This was one of the worst years I’ve experienced,” Scott said.
He explained that hot summer weather made pumpkin blossoms close and, subsequently, fewer got pollinated. Then his farm got hit with 20-degree weather the weekend of Oct. 10, which froze Scott’s pumpkins. “I went out there the next morning, and you can imagine how a person could feel,” he said. “I had frozen pumpkins. Luckily they thawed out.”
It’s not just the pumpkins that can be finicky about weather. “Rain puts a damper on things because it gets muddy.” When you’re hoping people stop by to tromp through your pumpkin patch and run through your corn maze, the mud isn’t welcome.
“The other crops — apples and cherries — there’s much, much more money in stuff like that, so it’s not very wise to go to the trouble of having a pumpkin patch,” he said.
“I do it because it’s good for the kids,” Scott said. “Most people do it for money to put in the bank. Once you come out and see all the kids running after the pumpkins, it’s worthwhile just to see them do that.”
Rochelle Feil Adamowsky: 664-7153