The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

    Pumpkin patch stems from family garden

    The Great Pumpkin Patch began with a few pumpkins grown for carving.

    Bruce Condill and his wife, Mary Beth, grew the pumpkins for their three sons: Kit, Mac and Buck.

    “Mom and dad thought it would be good to grow pumpkins in the garden,” Mac said.

    After carving some of them, the Condill family decided to sell the extras. They placed the extras in front of their mill house and sold them all.

    The next year, the family planted some more and sold out again. Selling the pumpkins continued, and in 1989, they decided to open The Great Pumpkin Patch located two miles south and a half-mile west of Arthur.

    “We’re still having fun,” Bruce said.

    Bruce and his wife own the pumpkin patch, Mac manages it and Kit and Buck help out.

    Mac’s wife, Ginny; Kit’s wife, Emily; and Buck’s wife, Shana, all help out as well.

    With about 63 acres of land dedicated to growing produce, roughly 400 different varieties of pumpkins and an assortment of squash are grown.

    “What we’re doing, is trying to show the diversity of the pumpkin family,” Mac said.

    The produce grown is from about 30 different countries and all of it is handpicked.

    “When you have this many varieties, you can’t have machinery,” Mac said. “It is not an easy chore.”

    Mac spotted a family with several pumpkins loaded in a wagon. Mac, off the top of his head, identified the pumpkins as a giant pumpkin, pink banana squash and a pie pumpkin.

    People don’t have to know the names to enjoy the variety, Mac said.

    The Great Pumpkin Patch has been recognized in the October 2005 issue of Martha Stewart Living and Mac also appeared on Martha Stewart’s morning show, “Martha,” regarding the pumpkin patch. The pumpkin patch has also been featured on the DIY Network.

    Mac said it is the variety of pumpkins that has earned them such recognition.

    Country Living Magazine sent people to Arthur this past week to do a story and take photographs, which will appear in an issue next year.

    “We have a place where people can connect to the land of harvest,” Bruce said.

    Harvesting pumpkins is common in Illinois.

    Both Bruce and Mac said Illinois produces more pumpkins than any other state.

    The use of pumpkins is endless, whether they are used for carving, cooking or just display.

    Throughout the pumpkin patch, pumpkins and squash are used creatively, as heads of dummies in different scenes are to complete a new display this year – Noah’s Ark.

    “The squash are marching up two by two,” Mac said.

    However, The Great Pumpkin Patch is not just a pumpkin patch. The place has a maze, bakery, animals and two single-room schoolhouses – all of which support the Condills’ focus of making the place educational.

    “We are a working farm and very education-oriented,” Mac said.

    The Homestead Bakery shows the versatility of pumpkins when it comes to baking. It is home to homemade pumpkin-inspired goods including: Pumpkin angel food cake, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin bread.

    Although Mac is around pumpkins so often, he still enjoys pumpkin products – his favorite being pumpkin pie.

    He said if he were to make it, he would use Japanese squash.

    Bruce also said pumpkin pie is his favorite, but likes pumpkins in general.

    “It’s such a good food and very nutritious,” he said.

    Mac explained how nutritious pumpkins are.

    “(They are) the third most important plant family to human consumption,” he said.

    Mac said the first is grass like wheat and corn and the second is beans.

    The schoolhouse is also an educational tool. About 4,000 school children visit the pumpkin patch, and when they do, they learn about farming and how it would be to go to school in single-roomed buildings.

    “It opens their eyes to how it used to be,” Mac said.

    Whether young or old, the pumpkin patch is attractive to all age groups – even college students. The pumpkin patch saw about 42,000 visitors last year.

    Mac said a visit could be a fun, inexpensive date or even a place to go with a group of friends.

    Heather Jones, a freshman sports management major who grew up in Arthur, works at the pumpkin patch.

    Jones said The Great Pumpkin Patch would be a great place for students from urban areas to visit.

    “For all the Chicago kids, they would be blown away – culture shock,” she said. “For people in the big cities, there’s no way you can find anything like this.”

    Megan Gingerich, a freshman speech pathology major, works at the pumpkin patch as well, and said it would be neat for city or suburban students to see.

    “It’s kind of cool to see all the different things that are grown,” Gingerich said.

    The Great Pumpkin Patch

    – Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. till Oct. 31

    – Located two miles south and one half-mile west of Arthur

    – Admission is $3 for ages 13 and up; $1 for ages 6 to 12; and free for children under 5


    Pumpkin patch stems from family garden

    Pumpkin patch stems from family garden

    Kaiwi Bender sits on top of a pumpkin that weighs more than he does Sunday afternoon at The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur. The pumpkin patch opened in 1989 and grows more than 400 different varieties of pumpkins. Robbie Wroblewski/On the Verge


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