Many families spend the autumn season drinking spiced apple cider, driving through forests colored in shades of red and gold and visiting a local pumpkin patch. Capitalizing on this popular seasonal activity can be a lucrative idea for those with a green (or orange) thumb. Starting a pumpkin patch, however, involves more than purchasing one or two pumpkins and selling corn on the cob to tourists.
Buy all necessary supplies. Purchase pumpkin, gourd and corn seeds. Buy hoes, rakes, watering cans, gloves, shovels and other gardening supplies. For larger pumpkin patch operations that include corn fields and football field-sized pumpkin patches, anticipate raising capital to purchase tractors, lawn mowers and other costly industrial agricultural equipment. Obtain land with rich, fertile soil in a sunny location.
Grow the pumpkins. George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler, authors of the book, “Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden” explain that pumpkins require specific growing conditions. They advise planting seeds 1 inch deep in the spring when the temperatures reach the low 70s. Levenson and Thaler advise monitoring leaves for irregularities in case various bugs and critters are visiting the pumpkin patch.
Hire labor. Find employees skilled in tilling the land and hire them for seasonal help during the 120-day growing cycle. Hire additional employees during the busiest months of September through November to assist with sales, tours, accounting and other business activities. Post employment fliers at local colleges, grocery stores and other community establishments.
Plan various activities. Attract visitors to the pumpkin patch by offering several fun activities in addition to selling pumpkins. Plan a haunted house during the month of October, build a corn maze, offer hayrides and pumpkin-painting stations, sell family portraits with a cornfield backdrop and hold pumpkin carving competitions. You may also want to set up food stands offering Indian fry bread, kettle corn and corn on the cob. For younger children, offer face painting and have Halloween costume contests. Additionally, rent out the pumpkin patch per hour for events like weddings, school field trips and corporate events. Offer agriculture tours during the day and ghost tours late at night
Advertise the pumpkin patch. Gain attention at the community, state and even national level. Pitch the pumpkin patch as a family-friendly operation and stress the importance supporting of locally-owned farms. Offer discounts for students, senior citizens and group discounts for large families. Post coupons for hayrides in the local newspaper.
Make fliers that differ based on the targeted demographic. For example, make scary-looking posters with full moons, scarecrows and ghouls for teenagers attracted to the pumpkin patch for the haunted house feature. Post fliers at day care centers in bright colors of red, orange and gold to entice families to visit for face-painting activities and pumpkin-decorating contests. Make a website that outlines hours of operation, cost, available activities and location.
- Pumpkin image by PhotoVision from Fotolia.com