Jun 23, 2008Kansas Pumpkin, Gourd Farm Ventures into Agritourism
Pumpkins and gourds complement two of Brenda Renyer’s passions: autumn and crafting.
That passion for growing and creating has helped Brenda and her family turn Renyer’s Pumpkin Farm in Wetmore, Kan., into a local destination.
It all started as a hobby, more or less. After they were married, Brenda moved in with her husband, Doug, who lived on what used to be an 80-acre corn and soybean farm in the northeast corner of Kansas, about an hour north of Topeka. Doug grew up on a dairy farm and had fond memories of his childhood, so when his wife suggested they start growing pumpkins he fell in love with the idea, she said.
Several years ago, Brenda wanted to hold an open house in the fall to show off her crafts and she thought pumpkins would be a nice addition. So, one weekend a year they turned their garage into a gift shop that specialized in crafts and pumpkins, she said.
They decided to venture into agritourism eight years ago, but didn’t really know what they were doing. They were basically “messing around,” she said. They didn’t realize how much potential their business had until they went to a North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) conference a few years ago in California.
That was an eye opener. They got more serious about their business after the conference and decided to expand. Brenda had already developed a clientele through her craft making and thought the farm could expand on that base. She was right.
“Little did we know how big we could get.”
They’re hoping to have at least 5,000 people visit the farm this year, she said.
The farm is now open five full weekends every fall and offers a host of agritourism activities (most of which were inspired by ideas they picked up at NAFDMA conferences, Brenda said). The farm’s Web site, www.renyerspumpkinfarm.com, lists some of the activities: u-pick pumpkins, corn cannon, hay rides, corn maze, pumpkin train, grain bin play area, pumpkin slingshot, animal area, duck races, two-story playground, tube slide, straw bale maze, concessions, picnic area, scarecrow, John Deere trike track and a family photo area.
The Renyers grow pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn on about 10 acres. The pumpkins come in all varieties, shapes, sizes and colors. Brenda has been enjoying the warty new Super Freak pumpkins this year.
“We grow it all,” she said. “I like having different kinds of pumpkins.”
Customers can pick the pumpkins in the fields or buy them pre-picked at the gift shop. They also can buy crafts, mums and gourds, many of which are used to make handmade gifts. Brenda has made snowmen, penguins, birdhouses and other items out of gourds.
Renyer’s Pumpkin Farm is in a rural area, which limits its customer base. Most visitors come from the small communities within 20 or 30 miles of Wetmore. The farm pulls some people from the Topeka area, but it’s a long drive, she said.
The farm has given the Renyers family a great opportunity to work together. Brenda used to be a teacher, but farming and crafts have become her full-time occupations. Doug still has a full-time job, but does a lot of work on the farm. Their son, Clay, 14, helps out, too. It’s been a great way for him to learn about running a business and handling money, Brenda said.
The Renyers want to continue to expand their business, but they know they have to be patient.
“There’s so much we want to do,” Brenda said, but “everything takes time and money.”