Fall brings more students out to the farm

Fall brings more students out to the farm
Photo courtesy of Téa Bonanno and Sarah Schultz

As the weather turns colder and the leaves begin to change, local farms and farmers markets see their business increase in the month of October. This is the time of year they call “pumpkin season.” 

During the fall, Tuscaloosa Barnyard give guests a pumpkin with their admission to the petting farm. Co-owner Kami Combs said that not only is October the busiest time of year for them, but that season has been getting busier over the years, with college students at the helm. Last year, she had three sororities schedule visits to experience the farm and get pumpkins; this year she has a dozen.  

“It always surprises me,” Combs said. “I had the Alabama swim team two weeks ago and I stood at the door and cried because it just amazes me with what we've built, that even kids of that age enjoy the farm.” 

Combs said she thinks the enjoyment of going to a farm and getting a pumpkin, rather than buying one from a store, stems from the fact that many people under 50 didn’t grow up with the farm experience. 

“There's a whole era where a lot of us didn't grow up with farm animals,” she said. “We didn’t get to interact and see that kind of stuff, so to see that now is amazing. They're so giddy when they come in. My college girls are just giddy and it's a beautiful and sweet and exciting.” 

She also attributed the growth of business during the fall to out-of-state students who introduce their friends to the idea of Alabama-esque places like Tuscaloosa Barnyard. 

“Alabama has some amazing pumpkin patches but in other places like Indiana and Michigan, they actually have the cooler weather and the changing already of colors of leaves,” Combs said. “So a lot of girls and guys who are coming from those areas are really familiar with pumpkin patches so they really look those up. But what's really cool is when you're more of the South and you don't do a lot of pumpkin patches, a lot of your other friends that are coming from those other areas are bringing them in.”

Preston Ingram, the manager at Ingram Farms, said he also sees his business increase during the fall, especially amongst students. 

“The ice cream shop brings a lot of them out, which is good and we appreciate them, but I've seen a lot of them this year more than in previous year come get ice cream and then they'll come over across the street and look at pumpkins,” he said. 

Like Combs, Ingram also attributed the rise in business to customers wanting something different than store bought classic orange pumpkins. That’s why Ingram Farms offers a variety of pumpkins in different shapes, sizes and colors.  

“People like just variety so we've got about every pumpkin you can find,” he said. “It's like a farmers market type look. Nobody wants to buy a pumpkin in Publix, where you can walk in and it's there, when you feel like you go to the farmers market here. Which you are.” 

The experience of a pumpkin patch is what led graduate student Haley Moody to start a new tradition of visiting one every year when she was an undergraduate student.  She bought a pumpkin from the store to carve her freshman year, but wasn’t satisfied with the experience. Since then she’s visited farms and stands for her pumpkins, including Ingram Farms, Griffin Farms in West Blocton and even some patches up near Tennessee.  

“Just going to the store, you don't get to have that fun atmosphere of going out and picking and finding a pumpkin yourself and actually choosing the one that you really want among a bajillion pumpkins,” said Moody, who’s currently pursuing her master's degree in library and information studies. “You can just have a fun time picking yours out, one that you really want, and enjoy all the other atmosphere and the fun things that are happening.”

The best part about it though, she said, is how much visiting the patches makes it feel like fall, even when the Alabama weather hasn’t changed yet. 

“There's a beautiful moment when you look out see all the pretty pumpkins and it just kind of reminds you of how beautiful October is,” she said. “Fall is my favorite season and it's hard in Alabama because you don't really have the fall weather until later but it's just a beautiful season. Being able to still go out and get a pumpkin and see the field of pumpkins, it's just a beautiful moment.” 

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