10 years for Baker's pumpkin patch
MOUNT VERNON — Sitting on his father's lap, 4-year-old Hudson Baker smiled as their tractor came to a stop at the end of the pumpkin patch.
Hopping off, Hudson ran nearby to his mother, Ashley, who was waiting for him with a warm coat. With his mother was his 5-year-old sister, Hallie, also came to meet the duo. Her father, Kyle, was quick to pick her up and greet his daughter with a piggy-back ride.
The warm welcome and sweet laughter shared by the family is a regular occurrence. But it's even more likely to be found in their 10-acre pumpkin patch west of Mount Vernon.
It's the Baker family's favorite time of the year. Autumn means it's pumpkin time.
This is the 10th year of operation for the Bakers, who also grow watermelons, muskmelons, squash and tomatoes on their 25-acre farm — but it's their pumpkins that are making a name for the family of four.
While it's the family's 10th year in operation, it's the fifth year since they decided to open the pumpkin patch to the public, and it's grown "like crazy."
"When we started, the first couple of years we maybe had a dozen to 15 people from town," Kyle said of the patch. " ... It went from a small local thing to people coming from Armour, Sioux Falls and Chamberlain. People are coming from all over to check it out."
On Saturday, Ashley said she counted 140 vehicles parked in their field waiting to pick a pumpkin.
The Bakers charge $4 per pumpkin, which includes access to the petting zoo and painting booth on site in the Mount Vernon patch. The low cost is what Ashley believes to draw in so many people.
In Mitchell, the Bakers also have a stand selling pumpkins and other produce on East Havens Avenue, near Prestige Salon & Spa. The stand has been running for approximately five years.
Sunday saw a slightly smaller crowd than usual, but still large for the small family farm, which will be open for two more days this fall on Oct. 14 and 21. The hours run from 3 p.m. until dark.
"It was never this big," Ashley said. " ... It's just a different thing for kids to experience. It's not everyday you get to go to a pumpkin patch and pick a pumpkin."
Their patch stands out among others in the southeastern South Dakota area because, according to Kyle, area patches are not actually patches, but instead are in a yard or parking lot.
But at the Baker Pumpkin Patch, visitors can pick pumpkins "right off the vine." And it's this ability that entices so many families to stop by.
"You see the kids' faces when they get out of the vehicle, and there's just thousands of pumpkins out in a field," Ashley said.
Working 'as a family'
Each night, the Bakers can often be found out and about in the patch — whether it's picking pumpkins, muskmelons or another crop.
And their two children are eager to help. Ashley recalls one night recently when the family picked approximately 500 muskmelons, and Hudson was right there, lifting as many as he could.
"They're out there every night with us," Ashley said. "We're able to do it as a family."
Ashley is a native of Ethan, while Kyle grew up in Mount Vernon. Both of their parents happily help out with the patch, too, especially on weekends when the patch is crowded with people.
Aside from picking pumpkins, visitors can also check out the petting zoo and horse rides — a new feature this year at the farm.
As attendance grows on the weekends this fall, Ashley said she hopes their name will become synonymous with area pumpkins — just like Zoss Melons.
"We plan to do this for a long time," Ashley said.