Pumpkin patch navigates drought while offering fall family fun
Thea's Pumpkin Patch offers something for the whole family to enjoy.
Like many, Brenda Olson thoroughly enjoyed showering her porch with the perfect pumpkins as soon as the leaves began to change. But, those perfect little pumpkins quickly added up when it came to purchasing them. The solution? The Olson’s started their very own pumpkin patch.
“My wife would spend a ton of money every fall buying pumpkins to decorate, I mean it was just a lot. So, we decided to start growing our own,” Mike Olson said.
The first year in their pumpkin patch endeavor, the pair harvested one wagon load of their home-grown pumpkins. They set their extras by the road for their neighbors and community members to purchase. That one wagon load of gourds quickly turned into a full-blown fun fall family destination on their property, where they officially started Thea’s Pumpkin Patch.
Thea’s Pumpkin Patch, named after Brenda and Mike’s daughter, is nestled in a prime location for fall activities. Maplewood State Park is less than fifteen minutes away, which helps the Olsons bring in quite a crowd.
“Once the leaves and the hills start turning, it just brings out people. If they go to Maplewood, they’ll try to make a day of it and go spend the morning there and come here in the afternoon,” Mike Olson said. “We’re also close to the lakes.”
During a typical fall weekend, Thea’s Pumpkin Patch gets around 1,000 to 1,5000 visitors.
One of their businesses’ biggest draws is their corn maze, which was added in 2016. Each year, the Olsons pick a theme to be implemented into their maze. This year they chose to honor the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Firefighters, police officers and other first responders can show their identification to get free admission.
The corn is planted with a heavy population in both a north and south direction and east to west direction to achieve the grid pattern needed for the maze. According to Olson, keeping the stalks green and tall into the fall can be challenging.
“The biggest obstacle we had was finding a corn that would grow tall enough and stay tall enough. We close Halloween, so we still want that corn as green as we can get it and as tall as we can get it. That’s where we struggled for years,” Mike Olson said. “We got hooked up with Thunder Seeds, and they came up with a variety that has just worked excellent for us the past few years.”
According to Olson, the corn is holding up well despite the drought and standing around 12 to 15 feet in height. However, the lack of precipitation took a toll on their eight acres of pumpkins.
“The orange pumpkins really got affected this year. We don’t have the size or the quantity,” Mike Olson said. “Nation-wide orange pumpkins are at an all-time low this year, and that is due to the drought.”
In addition to the maze, those who make the trek to Thea’s Pumpkin Patch can enjoy a hay ride, food and a petting zoo, pick their perfect pumpkin, watch the 40 cattle graze in the Olson’s pasture and much more.
Thea’s Pumpkin Patch is open for you-pick Monday through Thursday from 1 to 6 p.m. and Friday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday's hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and it's open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. On Friday and Saturday evening, visitors are able to partake in the twilight maze, which runs from dusk and the last entrance into the maze is 10 p.m.
“We have people running around here until 1 a.m. with flashlights and stuff, it’s really fun,” Mike Olson said.