While the first day of fall isn’t technically until September 22, my wife has already insisted on changing the décor. So, that meant a trip to a local pumpkin patch over the weekend. We went to Hillside Acres, a u-pick apple orchard and pumpkin patch located about 10 minutes east of Lafayette.
2020 was a devastating year for many businesses, but what about the agritourism industry? Caleb Hufford, one of the owners of Hillside Acres, said 2020 was actually a great year for them, and they anticipate even bigger crowds this year.
“We felt like last year was a good growing year. The reason is because a lot of indoor stuff that was closed. You couldn’t go to the movie theaters. You couldn’t really go anywhere. We were still offering to come out here because we were all outdoors. We got our name out there maybe more than we would in a normal year, and so this year I feel like more people know about us. Now that everybody is kind of getting out, yeah, we anticipate bigger crowds.
Hufford says this is their 4th year running Hillside Acres. They bought the U-Pick apple orchard with the intention of converting the land to corn and soybean acres, but they were convinced to keep the apple orchard. They then decided to add a pumpkin patch and entertainment for families like a jumping pad, slides, a corn maze, and tractor rides.
Hufford says after growing up on a row crop and hog farm, growing specialty crops intrigued him, but growing pumpkins is sure different. He says disease is a huge issue for pumpkins.
“So, we have to come up with a good, safe spray schedule that we use. We spray every 14 days, around two weeks is what we try to do. It’s just completely different. And we grow 30 different varieties of pumpkins, and some are more susceptible than others. So, we just have to keep a really close eye on them.
“The other big problem about pumpkins is weed control. Pumpkins are a broadleaf and most weeds are broadleaf as well. So, it’s hard to find a good weed control measure. So, a lot of it is pulling weeds by hand. We do some spot spraying as well.”
Bugs are also a big problem for the pumpkins. He says they do crop checks every day for both the apples and pumpkins.
Hufford never saw himself getting into agritourism, but he says it’s very rewarding.
“The rewards are when people are coming out here like they are today and they’re having a good time. Then when October comes and there’s so many people coming out and telling you how much fun their kids are having. Also, when you can produce a good quality pumpkin, good apples, that’s the biggest reward to me. It’s so rewarding because you worked all year and look what you got in the end.”
Learn more about Hillside Acres and why Hufford chose to get involved in agritourism in the interview below.