Driving along State Road 11 just south of Seymour, a roadside stand selling pumpkins and other fall decor can be spotted on the west side of the road.
Stuckwisch Pumpkin Patch has gone from growing an acre of pumpkins four years ago to having seven acres of a variety of pumpkins this year along with selling Indian corn, cornstalks and straw bales.
Co-owners Craig Stuckwisch and Riley Friend not only have people who regularly drive the road stop by, but people from the city and other areas are coming by, too.
“I started it up myself four years ago. I decided to do it for something as a side job to get some more money,” said Stuckwisch, who graduated in May with an agricultural business degree from Ivy Tech Community College.
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“I figured since we were on Highway 11, there would be quite a bit of traffic. I thought maybe it would be a good idea,” he said. “It has turned out pretty good. The four years I’ve been doing it, I’ve been growing every year just to do with more and more people knowing that I’m around here.”
Stuckwisch and Friend said they expect this month to be the busiest time of the season because people typically want pumpkins to carve for Halloween or to make pumpkin pie. Plus, after a warm September, it’s now starting to get cooler and feel more like fall.
“September was all real hot, and nobody was in the mood for pumpkins yet,” Stuckwisch said.
“After the Oktoberfest is really when we start seeing a gradual pickup of customers,” Friend said.
The stand at 1416 N. State Road 11 will remain open through the end of the month. People can stop by during daylight hours to make their purchases and place money in the honesty box.
Growing up on his family’s farm, Stuckwisch learned about row crops, wheat, alfalfa hay, dairy cattle and steers.
Up until four years ago, the family never had sold produce. Stuckwisch, a 2014 graduate of Trinity Lutheran High School, thought growing and selling pumpkins would give him an opportunity to earn some money for college.
By searching the internet and talking to others who grew pumpkins, Stuckwisch learned everything he needed to know to get started.
“At Ivy Tech, I learned a lot about running a business and how to be successful,” he said. “That helped me out, but then just knowledge from my dad and my uncle and grandpa and how they run their business helped me out a lot, too.”
Friend, a 2014 Seymour High School graduate and current elementary education student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, also has learned a lot about pumpkins since she started with the business four years ago.
“I came along and I just sort of picked it up. As he learned, I learned along with him,” she said. “It has sort of been a whole family thing. We’ve all been able to help him out and get him to where he is today.”
Planting of pumpkin seeds is done around the middle of June each year to give them time to mature.
“Some of the maturity is 90 days, and they range all the way up to 110 days for the maturity of the pumpkin so it gives them some time to grow,” Friend said. “They really like the hot in August. That’s when they grow the most.”
Stuckwisch said he always has planted the seeds by hand because he found out that’s the easiest way.
“It’s more accurate,” he said. “I’ve got a planter. We tried it out, and it didn’t work as well as just doing it by hand.”
His family helps with that task every year.
“I appreciate all of my family members that help me,” he said. “They all help me plant, and they pick pumpkins with me, too.”
The pumpkin seeds look just like ones you see when you carve out a pumpkin, Friend said. But they buy treated seeds so they are more likely to produce and make more fruit.
“It keeps the bugs away for at least two weeks so they can be able to grow and not kill the seed,” Stuckwisch said of using treated seeds.
A week after planting the seeds, sprouts can be seen in the field.
Stuckwisch said he sprays insecticide and fungicide every two to three weeks to help keep bugs and diseases away.
“For produce, it’s really important that you spray them so they don’t die early and that the pumpkin doesn’t rot on the buyers,” he said.
The most troublesome insect is the cucumber beetle, which Friend said looks like a yellow ladybug. Those have been a problem this year with the amount of rain the area has received.
Stuckwisch said the key is to have some rain but not too much because it could result in insect and fungus problems.
“If you get a hard rain, a whole bunch at one time, it could drown out and and kill (the plant),” he said.
Pumpkins typically are ready to be picked right after Labor Day when the weather breaks.
Orange pumpkins start out green and can be picked when they turn all orange.
Stuckwisch began growing white pumpkins and porcelain doll, or cotton candy, pumpkins a couple of years ago. He said the white ones are white from the start, while the porcelain doll pumpkins start out looking yellow or white until turning pink at the mature stage. They remain pink where the sun shines on them, but the bottom turns blue from the lack of sunshine.
Friend said the white pumpkin plants may result in three or four pumpkins on one vine, while there are less on orange pumpkin vines.
When the stem is green and wet, it means the vine and pumpkin are still alive.
“They can stay out there (in the field) as long as they are not rotten or anything,” Stuckwisch said.
This is their first year selling pumpkin pie pumpkins. They planted about an acre, but Stuckwisch said they haven’t been selling as well as the other varieties, crediting that to people preferring to buy canned pumpkin to make a pie or buying pies already made.
It’s also their first year for Indian corn, but they have sold cornstalks and straw bales in the past.
Another first this year was selling their products at the Hen and Chicks Barn Market in Seymour.
Stuckwisch and Friend both said they hope for a good finish to another fall season, and they plan on continuing — and possibly expanding — the business in the future.
“I’m excited so we can expand in the future and maybe make this more than just a roadside stand and expand to something else — a market or you-pick,” Friend said. “I think that would be really exciting and fun to expand to.”
What: Stuckwisch Pumpkin Patch
Where: 1416 N. State Road 11, Seymour
When: Open during daylight hours
Products: Orange, white, porcelain doll, pumpkin pie and ornamental pumpkins; Indian corn; cornstalks; straw bales
The United States Department of Agriculture tracks the number of farms harvesting pumpkins and the number of acres of pumpkins harvested through the Census of Agriculture, which is taken every five years.
For Jackson County, those numbers are: