OTISCO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An Ionia County pumpkin patch is headed toward its biggest crop yet despite a spring drought and rising prices.
Paulson’s Pumpkin Patch, located in Belding, is a family tradition that started with Patrick O’Donnel’s grandfather more than 40 years ago. Today, it’s still going strong, expanding and staying in the family with Patrick now in charge.
“I’m outside all day, every day,” said O’Donnel, who took over the farm in 2018. “That’s one of the best things: being outside every day, all day.”
O’Donnel isn’t joking. He’s outside working across the 80-acre farm up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. He grows nearly every fruit and vegetable you can think of.
“We start with zucchini, summer squash, pickles and cucumbers in the spring,” O’Donnel explained. “Now tomatoes, peppers, squash, apples, watermelon. Now going into pumpkins and decorative squash. Gourds.”
The big attraction: thousands of pumpkins of 67 different varieties. They were planted in May and have now sprouted up to make for the farm’s biggest crop ever. With fall right around the corner, they’ll be ready to go this coming week.
“Pumpkins looking like they’re doing really good,” O’Donnel said. “We got a pretty good crop this year. Little late to start for the cucumbers and the veggie stuff, but this year seems pretty good.”
Getting here wasn’t exactly easy. The long drought across the spring forced O’Donnel’s team to water each crop individually for months. O’Donnel went through more than nine tank loads of water a day.
Another hurdle for farmers: Expenses shot up last year because of high diesel and fertilizer prices plus rising labor costs.
O’Donnel said prices rose just slightly this year, mostly for what’s necessary to maintain crops.
“We lay everything on plastic, so the plastic expense went up,” he said. “Bags. A lot of maintenance goes into stuff. Like equipment and buying boxes and stuff like that. They all kind of went up.”
“We try to stay reasonable,” he continued. “You do it as cheap as you can. Labor prices are a big thing, you have to pay everybody.”
Some supply issues remain, including backordered seeds. Still, with business booming and a great crop, O’Donnel’s team is feeling great heading into the fall.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase of people coming,” O’Donnel said. “That’s kind of helping out, I’m growing more than we ever have, so that kind of helps. But we’re selling more so that’s kind of helping us get through everything.”
Paulson’s Pumpkin Patch is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Right now, the farm has tomatoes, apples, peppers and more ready to buy before pumpkins arrive this coming week. Once October rolls around, the farm will start doing hayrides.
“It’s good interacting with everybody,” O’Donnel said. “You see a lot of different people, a lot of families come and bring the kids out here.”