As part of our fall farm field trips, we have included free pumpkins for our school groups and guests to pick. They are planted last of all our crops on the second weekend in June. The varieties of pumpkins are limited to two types to insure the kids can carry them home in their back pack; the sweet sugar pie pumpkin and a smaller jack-o-lantern variety. Both need to be white mold resistant.
    My husband, Duane, has the field in perfect condition and depending on what crop was there the previous year we use a pre-plant herbicide. We head to the field in the late afternoon with the tobacco planter and a couple bags of pumpkin seeds. I sit on the seat low to the ground and drop the seeds down into where the tobacco plants would normally get placed into the soil. The seeds get covered up as we roll ahead.
    Within a few days after a rain, the seedlings pop up, and I can see what kind of planting I did. If I dropped too many close together, we have to thin the row. If Duane drives too fast, we end up with less plants per row. After doing this for over 20 years, we are pretty good at getting the right speed and dropping only two seeds at a time.
    When we host tours in the summer, to camps, church groups and families, we check on the pumpkin plants. The yellow flowers bloom and quickly grow into green baby pumpkins. I lift the big, heart shaped leaves for the kids to see what will eventually turn orange when they head back to school.
    This year was a good year for pumpkins. From any point on our farm looking east, the glow of the orange pumpkins can still be seen. The school groups often cheer, “Look at all of these pumpkins,” when we drive up with the hayride to the patch.
    The kids love to pick pumpkins. Even with the rain, mud and snow; yes, snow. These kids dressed for the weather with boots, mittens and winter gear for their day at the farm. They have a hard time waiting their turn to climb down the steps to find their own pumpkin.
    Often the parents ask, “What do I do with all the left overs?” The sweet sugar pie pumpkins will last until Thanksgiving if I get them out of the field before too many heavy frosts or snow. In years past, I would cook up a bunch of pumpkins and freeze the puree so I could easily grab a bag and make a pumpkin pie or muffins. This year, I did not get around to it. Now we try to give them away.
    This fall we had organizations in need of pumpkin donations so cars, vans, trucks and trailers were packed with pumpkins. We offered them to anyone. I did have a group of young mothers that took extra to make baby food. A man came to get some for his goats and sheep to eat during the winter. We have tossed the pumpkins that were decorations around the corn shocks into the goats and sheep. They really do love them, but cows do not seem to.
    So, the left over pumpkins will sit in the field until the corn is harvested and the chisel plow makes its way to the patch. Some pumpkins will come up in the spring as volunteer seedlings, but the patch will have to go to a new spot in a different field.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.