Pumpkins galore

bbashioum@demo-mo.comOctober 11, 2013 

Matt Moreland, 28, and his wife, Becky, 26, recently opened a pumpkin patch on their farm in rural Harrisonville.

BETHANY BASHIOUM/DEMOCRAT MISSOURIAN

Harrisonville has a new destination to help visitors bask in the autumn spirit.

Featuring an assortment of pumpkins ready to pick and activities for the kids, the Red Barn Ranch opened Sept. 14 through the testament of a challenge.

A noted area farmer, Matt Moreland, 28, and his wife, Becky, 26, recently purchased a rural Harrisonville farm, 23111 S. Jefferson Pkwy., not too far from their family’s dairy operation.

The Moreland family has been involved in production agriculture for four generations – raising corn, soybeans, hay, beef, and milk for over 65 years. Early in the summer, the couple challenged themselves to grow an acre and a half of pumpkins on their new property.

“We didn’t know if we would have two pumpkins, 200, or 2,000,” Matt Moreland said. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

Moreland brought in a big plow and turned the soil over. He then modified a corn planter to drop pumpkin seeds.

They planted three varieties of pumpkins: Jack-Be-Littles, Autumn Gold Hybrids and Big Macs.

By late summer, pumpkins were growing rampant and Moreland determined that his crop would be successful.

The pumpkins range from one pound to about 50.

“All of sudden, we have this huge crop,” Moreland said. “My wife says, ‘Congratulations, we now got all these pumpkins, how are we going to get rid of them?’”

Moreland had the idea to sell them on Craigslist, but his wife had a better suggestion.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you open a pumpkin patch?’” Moreland recalled. ‘I said that was a good idea.’ It’s important to share the message of agriculture.”

The name of the business came about as the property has six standing red barns.

As the couple prepared to open the pumpkin patch, Moreland and his wife set up Facebook page to help get the word out about their new endeavor three days before opening. To couple was shocked to have nearly 500 page likes by the next day.

The following day, a Friday, they received an email from a school inquiring about what activities there were for children to do at the pumpkin patch.

“That’s when I learned people expected more than just pumpkins in a patch,” Moreland said. “To the public, they want something to take pictures of, things for kids to do, decorations, and a petting zoo.”

Upon learning this, Moreland worked around the clock on Friday, until 2 a.m. on the Saturday they were slated to open, developing activities for the kids in one of the barns near the entrance of the pumpkin patch.

He built a hay tunnel, a big bale slide, a bean bag toss, a corn and cottonseed play pits, a pumpkin bowl, and put together a small petting zoo. Moreland also worked with members of his family to give the patch a festive fall appeal.

“By pure luck, my aunt grew decorative small gourds and my mom grew birdhouse gourds, and we had three different kinds of pumpkins,” Moreland said. “It all went together perfect.”

Moreland had also grown some corn and his brother had some straw.

“Between family, we had pretty much everything we could ever need,” he said.

Now a month into the operation, Moreland said the experience has been a huge learning process, but has enjoyed seeing people having fun while they learned more about agriculture.

“I want people to come out here, take pictures, and make a memory,” he said. “Anybody can go to Walmart and pick one out of a cardboard box from who knows what state. We’re trying to create an experience.”

Moreland said the faces of children light up when they go through the pumpkin patch.

The couple has also started a small shop on the property that will feature decorations and packaged food items that are unique to Harrisonville.

“We’re having a ton of fun doing this,” he said. “We’re learning a lot and things are evolving. I think this could be something great.”

The pumpkin patch is open 6 p.m.-dark Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-dark Saturday and Sunday.

More than anything, the Morelands wants visitors to give them feedback about their experience.

“I don’t want anybody to come out here and visit our farm and to say it was just ‘OK,’” Moreland said. “We ask the public to be honest with us. ‘Did you have fun? Did you learn something? And what can we do to make it better?’”

Next year, the couple is already planning to offer hayrides and to have a corn maze.

When purchasing the property, the couple inherited a patch of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, and an orchard of apples, peaches and plums. They hope to see those plants producing a harvest next year, as well.

Moreland is also working on remodeling a 100-year-old barn at the front of their property to hold special events.

Red Barn Ranch is expected to stay open through the first weekend in November. The business is also available for special events throughout the week.

Admission to the children’s play area is $5 and includes a small pumpkin to take home. Pumpkins are available for purchase at the price of $.50/pound.

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