By Natalia Ankiewicz and Jamesha Begay / News Port
This year, McCall’s Pumpkin Patch celebrated its 21st year of business. The 300 acre farm in Moriarty, New Mexico, became a major seasonal employer as they continued to draw families and school kids to its fields this last fall.
Looking back, the pumpkin patch has changed throughout the decades involving more attractions and activities for visitors.
McCall’s Pumpkin Patch was founded by Kevin and Kristen McCall and opened the farm in 1998. They said if all goes well, the business will be handed down to their two children, Morgan and Caleb, who are now in college.
When the patch opened in 1998, it offered tours to local school groups. Over time, it expanded to include more schools and the general public.
“Two classes came out and we put them on a wagon and drove them out there,” said Kristen McCall, remembering the early days. “At the time we were wholesaling [pumpkins], so there were trucks out there with people loading pumpkins in boxes and getting ready to go to Walmart.”
McCall said families, especially city residents, seem to enjoy visiting the rural environment. It provides a place to unplug and get involved with nature.
“We want to educate people in a fun way and kind of have a low tech family fun,” McCall said. “It’s not electronics, there’s fun things to do with your whole family out here.”
McCall said she learned as she went, going to many conferences and farms both in and outside the state to get ideas for their business.
“I’m kind of the idea person,” McCall said. “I get really excited. I have books and books of ideas and poor Kevin has to figure out how to build all of these things.”
The attractions have grown over the years, and so have the profits. In the beginning,the farm only had at hayride, some animals in a barn, and of course, the pumpkin patch.
Throughout the years, they have added a haunted barn, a 16 acre haunted corn maze, a princess castle, and multiple concession stands that people can enjoy.
As the attractions grow, so does the upkeep.
“We work really hard, “ McCall said. “We work all year on it, building things, getting stuff for the gift shop, and buying stuff for the attractions.”
Donna Carpio is the head of human resources and has been an employee at McCall’s pumpkin patch during the Halloween season last 14 years. She said the employees really value the McCalls and their farm.
“I love what they have done for the community,” Carpio said. “I love what they have done for the state even as a visitor center. I love their business ethic. It’s just been wonderful to be a part of that and it’s a thing we can have great pride in.”
While the farm typically employs about five people during the year, at peak season there are more than 400 people hauling, arranging, and looking after the pumpkins.
Carpio said employees at McCall’s find that they can move up in the business and get better job opportunities as they come back to the farm each season. Carpio started working for McCalls pumpkin patch as a school field trip coordinator and gradually moved up in the business from there.
One of the longest working employees on the farm is Starla Nicovich who said she started working for McCall’s about 20 years ago.
Nicovich started as one of the coordinators for school tours at McCall’s. Throughout the years, she moved to the kitchen where she perfected her fudge recipe. She said she has “free reign” with her creative pastries and desserts.
“If you got a good idea, they’d listen, no matter who you are,” said Nicovich.
McCall said the future of the pumpkin patch isn’t a sure thing — it depends on her adult children’s involvement.
“If they do I think we can keep expanding,” McCall said. “If they don’t, at some point we need to just, kinda, ya know, tone it down, it’s just a lot for two of use to handle.”
Natalia Ankiewicz is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached on Twitter @NataliaAnkiewi1 or at email@example.com.
Jamesha Begay is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached on Twitter @Mesha_Randomnes or at firstname.lastname@example.org.