| 2014 Q2 | by LIZ WESLANDER |
In 1975, Janet and Larry Schaake’s four children took on a humble 4-H horticulture project that included growing some pumpkins. Forty years later, Schaake’s Pumpkin Patch is a local institution where thousands of children and families go each fall to pick pumpkins and take in a little slice of farm life.
Janet Schaake says that running a U-pick agritainment destination was nowhere on the radar when her kids took on their original 4-H project.
“They just had a few extra pumpkins and didn’t know what to do with them,” says Janet. “So they put them in the back of the truck and tried to sell them by the side of the road.”
The kids successfully sold pumpkins out of the truck for a few years, says Janet, but as the U-pick concept started to gain in popularity in the agriculture community, the family decided that having people come to them might be easier than hauling the pumpkins to town. They were right.
Schaake’s 30-acre farm, located just east of Lawrence on N. 1500 Road, currently grows close to 100 different varieties of pumpkins and squash in every different color, shape and size imaginable, says Janet. The four Schaake kids put themselves through college using money made from the pumpkin patch, and all of them continue to help operate the farm.
Janet and Larry’s daughters, Shari, Sheila and Sharla, all still live within a mile of the farm with their families. Their son, Scott, is an Associate Professor of Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University and lives in Westmoreland, Kansas with his family.
Janet says that the entire family, which now includes 10 grandchildren, pitches in at the farm in October when the pumpkin patch is open to the public. The family also gets together regularly throughout the year to keep the operation going.
“We make sure the pumpkins are in ground by July Fourth,” says Janet. “Everyone in the family owns a hoe, and we have a lot of family gatherings out there hoeing in the patch. It’s definitely been fun.”