|Cary Knight - Patch's Pumpkins|
& Honey Farm
At first glance, some might think that Adel, Iowa is located only in the three blocks around the downtown square.
But in truth, our town reaches out in all directions from that central point, snaking its way around Dallas County to surprisingly close destinations.
The unincorporated land in the area is home to many who proudly choose to call Adel home.
At the end of one of these winding trails lives the Knight family and Patch's Pumpkins and Honey Farm, celebrating 10 years on the farm this September.
Cary Knight, his wife Kim, and children Zach, Chris, Jim and Kaitlyn seem to channel fate. 10 years ago, the family moved from Winterset to Adel to start a landscaping business. While his customers were very happy with his work, the business did not prosper as intended.
|The Knights: Kim, Cary and children Kaitlyn Zach, Chris, and Jim|
One day, a friend called to say her field trip to a nearby pumpkin patch had been rained out, and asked if she could bring the kids out to the farm instead. Cary called a friend from Winterset and asked to buy some pumpkins for the kids as a surprise. The man donated a truckload of pumpkins that Cary rolled into the field, so that the kids would have their pumpkin patch experience after all. With an antique tractor and borrowed hayrack, Cary gave rides and entertained the kids for the afternoon.
Soon, Cary noticed cars pulling into the driveway with license plates from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. People had seen the bright orange orbs in the field from the Interstate and pulled off to visit the pumpkin patch! His good deed had lead to an unexpected new business venture.
Cary's hayfield was replanted and the family began the process of learning how to care for the pumpkins. "That first year we planted the pumpkins, looked out at the field and said, 'now what?' We had to learn how to grow them!"
The small size of the farm had its pros and cons. While it is the perfect size to grow enough pumpkins for visitors with room to grow, the plot's smaller size required the family to be self reliant when dealing with pesticides and overall care.
The first year Patch's had 2 farmer market tents and a camper/trailer with a small hay maze and tractor rides. Now, the patch has an acre dedicated to parking that fills up and spills out half a mile onto either side of the gravel road leading to the house.
The Harvest Market and Gift store is located in the remodeled 1880's corn crib across from the permanent concession stand with picnic tables, a play area, private fire pit rental space, and birthday rental space. The grounds now house goats, chickens, and curious turkeys that are part of the only interactive animal experience in central Iowa.
There are bounce houses, 2 corn mazes, a corn pit, cow train rides, bag games, duck races, and horse and pony rides. Not to mention the pumpkin cannon that has to be witnessed in person to understand its truly awesome nature. Patch's Pumpkins and Honey Farm has grown from a roadside stop to Adel's own multi-day adventure park.
"It's just gone crazy. I think that seeing us straight off the interstate helped us grow. But we also get a ton of business from all the surrounding communities."
In the spirit of helping others, Cary took a young pumpkin farmer from Iowa City under his wing and was again rewarded with a positive turn of events.
The entrepreneur researched corn mazes and let Cary know that most corn mazes, while very decorative from an overhead view, are often too big and complicated to the visitor stuck in the middle trying to find their way out. It takes about 20 minutes per acre to complete the maze, making the ideal design 4-5 acres, which fit perfectly with Patch's.
Last year the family spelled out Stine Seed in support of their sponsor in 50-foot letters that could be seen from the Google Earth satellite in space.
This year, Cary has designed a winding, twisting maze without any straight lines featuring the mascot Patch the Scarecrow with ground level hidden checkpoints that change daily, offering a new challenge with each visit. The Kid Corn maze is ideal for little ones under 7 as it is a much smaller and simpler design with activities throughout the maze.
|The 2013 Corn Maze Layout|
"We've partnered with KOA and run a hayrack to pick up campers, bring them to the farm, and then take them back. We do fun things like that; it's all about partnerships. For every good deed comes something in return and its something you don't expect.
We did the good deed for the kids and suddenly we're into pumpkins. That good deed returned again in learning that an ideal corn maze is 4-5 acres. We grow and gain things by doing something for someone and then turn around and they have done something for us!
We are big believers in communities helping communities and families helping families. The Barnes' Place is a new reception hall nearby.
So companies can come to Patch's, do a pumpkin carving and apple bobbing contests and such, and then head over to the Barnes' Place for their meetings. It all goes to helping each other out."
In 2004 the Knights began to work with honey and again leveraged good deeds into partnerships. As part of Buy Fresh, Buy Local, a Drake University campaign to support a healthier population and promote economic growth within the state, and the Iowa Honey Producers Association, Cary is able to work with other members to receive discounts on supplies and learn new organic practices to care for his bees. As an association member, shoppers can feel confident that the raw, never pasteurized honey Patch's produces is of high quality, actually collected and jarred on site.
|High quality Honey, collected and jarred on site.|
An incredibly knowledgeable, self-described hobbyist at heart, Cary knows more about bees and pumpkins than can be explained in a few words. "Did you know that a bee hive is the most sterile environment that is found in nature? Bees collect resins from the trees and physically coat the entire inside of the hive.
Bees will visit their young 1300 times a day! They are very good parents, and the mother's are constantly doing things and cleaning. There are certain daily jobs they complete through their 21-28 day lifespan. They literally work themselves to death. There are up to 60-70,000 bees per hive at the height of the season."
|Cary with Bee Hives|
Something that has greatly affected the honey community is Sudden Death Syndrome. One day, the hive will be alive with activity and functioning as usual. The next, all the bees have simply up and left.
Beekeepers are trying to figure out what is causing the exodus, as it only occurs in the US where pesticides and genetically modified foods are part of the bees' food supply.
The bee population was down 50% a few years ago, and another 30% last year. Some Iowa farms have lost 80-100% of their hives due to the serious problem. For Cary and Iowa Honey farms, it is no longer about production; it is about helping the bees survive. "Its in everyone's best interest to support your local honey producer. Actually, it's in everyone's best interest to support ANY Iowa honey producer!"
This year, Patch's Pumpkin and Honey Farm will be open September 21st- October 31st, Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am - 6 pm offering 6 weeks to come out and join the fun.
In celebration of 10 years on the farm, prices have been rolled back. Pumpkins are now just 38 cents a pound. Daily passes are $3 per weekday with limited activities available, $5 per weekend day with a whole slew of fun events for all ages, or sign up for the best deal in Central Iowa - just $10 for a Season Pass.
With season passes, there is no need to wait until the end of October to visit the pumpkin patch. Each weekend there will be a different event, featuring menu items like hot dogs, brats and BBQ Pit Master smoked meats.
For Cary and his family, living in Adel means more than just visiting the square. It's about a sense of pride and belonging. When others might wonder, "what is Adel missing", Cary is quick to mention all that Adel has to offer.
"Adel's relaxed, welcoming, and I think as the community grows the challenge will be to manage that growth and to keep its identity, and still be Adel. I don't think it needs anything.
It's got a good school; it's a good community, with good local businesses. We just need to keep improving on what we have, not focusing on what we don't. You have everything you need in Adel-you don't have what you don't need."
Patch's Pumpkin and Honey Farm
35588 L Ln
Adel, IA 50003