For many people fall means enjoying pumpkin, whether it is eating or drinking something pumpkin flavored, which seem to have endless possibilities if one walks down any store aisle this time of year.
However, for others, they get their pumpkin fix by going to a local pumpkin patch and picking the perfect pumpkin for carving, decoration or using as part of a family pumpkin pie recipe.
Wesley Wells Farm in St. Augustine is a family-owned farm that takes a unique twist on the pumpkin patch trend by offering guests the opportunity to pick pumpkins fresh off the vine.
“It’s a really fun time to see all the people that make trips out each year pick through the selection or just take some amazing pics,” Amanda Wells said.
Although the u-pick pumpkin patch is such a hit now, it was an idea that initially had some doubt whether it was what people would gravitate to.
“We had no idea that people would ever want to pick their own pumpkins, but we want to thank all those who do and have made it part of their tradition over the years,” Wells said.
However, just like choosing other fruits and vegetables, there are certain signs to look for when picking the “perfect pumpkin.”
“We encourage people to check the vine, although where we are (in Florida), there are plenty that might fall off the vine on their own, but its still very important to look and see how the vine is and if it looks healthy,” Wells said.
Once chosen, Wells recommends keeping pumpkins in the shade in order to help preserve them for as long as possible, especially with the Florida heat.
Also, once a pumpkin is carved into, it will begin the rotting process, so she suggested painting pumpkins on the outside so that they look the part as a festive piece but for a longer period of time.
Wesley Wells Farm will hold its Third Annual Fall Festival beginning Sept. 30, which will include fun things for the family to take part in, such as hayrides, a farm playground with farms animals and a kid zone and games to accompany the pumpkin patch.
However, one of the major changes this year is that instead of the festival being on the pumpkin patches opening weekend as a way to kickoff the season, it will now we every Saturday from Sept. 30 to Oct. 28 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tickets for the festivals can be purchased at the gate and the farm is located at 2680 Ada Arnold Road in St. Augustine. There will also be different food trucks on site for guests to choose from each Saturday.
As is the case with farming, much of it is dependent on the cooperation of the weather patterns and this summer presented a challenge at times.
“All of our crops took a beating from the weather, because there was six weeks when it rained so heavy that we couldn’t even get tractors out to tend to the fields,” Wells said. “Some varieties of pumpkins thrived in that wet environment and others didn’t do as well.”
However, there is already a plan in place to make sure they have plenty of pumpkins available for each weekend and for the many school field trips they host during the month.
“We will have pumpkins, you don’t have to worry about that,” Wells said.
According to Wells, seeing the faces of the students on the field trips when they stop at the farm is one of her favorite things about the whole experience they offer.
“They just love it, and their favorite is always feeding the animals and playing in the dirt,” Wells said. “They never leave here as clean as they came.”
She also hopes that the field trips become not just about seeing a lot of pumpkins, but also about opening up a child’s creativity and imagination to the future opportunities that are out there.
“There are so many jobs and opportunities to get involved in agricultural careers,” Wells said. “I hope they see that, and a spark is created.”
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