Mader: Granny Mae’s Pumpkin Patch
October 13, 2017
Moving from state to state has given me the chance to visit all kinds of different pumpkin patches in Texas, Colorado and Kansas. I have seen quite a few neat ones (there is a great hay bale slide at the Lone Star Farm Pumpkin Patch in Stephenville, Texas) but my enduring favorite is Granny Mae's Pumpkin Patch. The patch is located in central Kansas near the town of Dorrance. It's just off I-70 and well worth the drive to see.
Tonya Buehler opened the pumpkin patch 18 years ago — the year after her 90-year-old grandmother Sara Mae Herber (Granny Mae) passed away.
"Granny Mae was an avid gardener and taught me how to garden," Buehler said. "We were in the garden together a lot. Even when Granny was in her 80s she worked in the garden — she just started carrying a lawn chair around with her so she could sit down when she got tired. After Granny passed away I thought that building a pumpkin patch would be the best way to honor her memory."
To further honor her grandma, Buehler built the pumpkin patch on the land that Granny Mae and her husband bought to farm and raise their kids on in 1942.
Every year, Buehler and her family hand plant and hand maintain over 6,000 pumpkin plants. They grow over 100 different varieties of pumpkins and gourds in five separate patches.
In addition to the pumpkins, Buehler creates a unique variety of scarecrows to decorate the farm.
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"When I started the pumpkin patch, I taught myself to make a scarecrow and it just grew from there," she said. "I make them all year round. I am constantly adding new ones to the patch, retiring old ones and fixing others damaged by the weather."
The patch has well over 100 scarecrows. The scarecrows aren't just the garden-variety of scarecrows that can be purchased at a big box store either. Each scarecrow is handmade and plays an important part in the farm's scarecrow community. Some of the scarecrows are playing baseball, others teach school, others are farmers and still others do household tasks like washing dishes.
Visitors to the farm can take a ride to the scarecrow meadow on what Buehler likes to call their handicap accessible trolley (tractor pulling a covered trailer with seats) to see dozens and dozens of scarecrows working and playing. Musicians entertain guests on the short ride to the tree-filled meadow.
In addition to the trolley ride, Granny Mae's patch also has an old-time candy story, a spot to grab a homemade lunch, a gift shop, cider house, haunted forest, barrel train ride, corn maze with scavenger hunt and kid's straw bale scavenger hunt.
To wind down after the days' activities, Granny Mae's has multiple bonfire spots. Visitors can borrow roasting sticks to make s'mores or just sit by the fire and enjoy some of the treats the patch sells like pumpkin ice cream, hand-dipped caramel apples, roasted pumpkin seeds cider, or hot cocoa.
"Parking and entrance into the pumpkin patch doesn't cost a thing," Buehler said. "I know my granny would have never wanted to charge people to just come, sit by the bonfire and look around."
The patch does charge for onsite food, drinks, crafts, pumpkins and gourds. Activities cost between $3 and $5 each. For more information about Granny Mae's call (785) 483-9667.
If you do stop by the pumpkin patch, make sure to look for Granny Mae's chair.
"I always keep one empty lawn chair in the patch somewhere, in remembrance of Granny," Buehler said.❖
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