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The quest for a great pumpkin

Accompanying the changing color of falling leaves, warm comfortable sweaters and hot beverages, fall inspires exciting activities such as pumpkin picking. Within the Fox Cities, there are plenty of locations to satisfy your pumpkin carving and pie making needs. Pumpkins can easily be obtained from a local grocer, but wandering through rows of pumpkin vines searching for your perfect pumpkin possesses a special flair.

Sprangers Orchard

While pre-picked pumpkins are set out in Sprangers Orchard in Kaukauna for customer’s convenience, visitors also have the option of picking their own pumpkin straight from the vine. “That’s very important,” says Rodger Sprangers, owner. “The kids get excited to pick their own pumpkin, and parents like to take pictures.”

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Sprangers started the orchard when he retired at age 62 from Metso paper company after working there as an engineer. He started planting the land in 1980 when he used a wild apple tree’s seeds to grow a whopping 800 apple trees. Sprangers has a genuine love for the produce he grows on his farm. “When you put in the time to plant a bunch of seeds and watch them grow, you get attached to them. When we get bad weather, such as hail, it’s devastating, and not simply because of the loss of funds,” Sprangers notes.

Peter’s Pumpkin Patch

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Growing and selling pumpkins is a hobby, lifestyle and job for Tim Nickel, the owner at Peter’s Pumpkin Patch in Kaukauna. Nickel started growing pumpkins at an incredibly young age.

“I have been growing pumpkins for 26 years. I stared growing pumpkins when I was 6 years old on my grandma’s property, and started Peter’s Pumpkin Patch in 2005 on the same land,” he shares.

Relating to the hard work that goes into the farm, Nickel says, “It’s kind of like lifting weights. You keep doing it until you get your desired result.”

Nickel’s dedication and continuous expansion to his farm is inspiring. In addition to growing a large variety of pumpkins, Peter’s Pumpkin Patch sells squash, various gourds, corn stalks, homemade jams, dill and garlic pickles, and natural raw honey straight from the hive. Next fall, apples will be made available through a growing method called, “espalier,” which allows the fruit bearing trees to grow off of a wall or lattice-like structure.

Mulberry Lane Farm

For pumpkin pickers seeking to enjoy a plethora of activities on the farm, Mulberry Lane Farm in Hillbert allows participants to milk a cow, catch a chicken, kiss a pig, cuddle a kitten, hand feed and interact with goats and sheep, ride a pony, and enjoy a hayride before taking home their free pumpkin. Bonnie Keyes, one of three owners at Mulberry Lane Farm shares the importance of the pumpkins to their patron’s experience. “Picking a pumpkin right from the field is the highlight of your visit to the farm in fall. It’s so much fun to see the different colors, sizes and shapes people select.”

Keyes expressed that the pumpkins people pick may even shed some light about their personality. “I once had a conversation with a teacher as we watched her students exit the patch with their prized possession. She pointed out one little girl who was coming out with the tiniest pumpkin. I asked her why she picked such a little pumpkin, (and) that she was welcome to select a much larger one. She shared that her little brother was home sick and she had picked it for him. The teacher concurred that this student was one of her most caring in her class; yet the young boy who could hardly carry his large pumpkin was known as one of the rowdiest. It was a lesson in personalities through the eyes of the pumpkin selection,” she says.

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Whether you intend to carve your pumpkin or enjoy its original form, any of these locations within the Fox Cities area provide a worthwhile picking experience. One cannot simply gain the same appreciation for the plump orange fruit without walking through a farm, interacting with its owners and witnessing the dedication that is put into the land every day. Before snow blankets the ground with the change of the season, be sure to pick a pumpkin this fall!

— By Jessica Morgan

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