A fresh crop of pumpkins is ripening at a Salem, Ore., U-pick patch, which celebrates turning 50 this year.
Owners Vince and Susan Woods explained that at their farm, Vince Woods Farm and U-Pick Pumpkin Patch, families can hand-pick pumpkins,
navigate a corn maze, walk through a Pumpkin Forest and a haunted 1941 Southern Pacific train caboose.
In honor of its 50th year, visiting the patch and the corn maze will remain free, and the Pumpkin Forest entrance fee has been reduced to 50 cents per person.
Vince said when the pumpkin patch opened, it was almost by accident.
After running out of precut display pumpkins, rather than turn customers away, he suggested they walk out to the patch to choose a pumpkin.
“The people really seemed a lot happier when they got to pick their own pumpkin,” Vince said.
In 1974, Vince moved to the current location, a farm that has been in his family for more than 100 years.
Nearly one acre is devoted to the corn maze, which spells “Woods” this year.
Wolf, Super Herc, and Howden Biggie pumpkins — averaging 20 to 25 pounds each — cover four acres of the 40-acre farm. Decorative gourds and pumpkins are also available. Pumpkins are 18 cents per pound.
“We keep the prices down and the sizes up,” Vince said.
Susan emphasized that the operation is a family experience appropriate for all ages.
A 10-foot-tall carved wooden pumpkin for photos is located on the path to the patch, while traditional Halloween decorations like jack-o-lanterns and stuffed witches with hay brooms can be found in the Pumpkin Forest and caboose.
“We want to entertain; we don’t want to scare,” Susan said. “Many families celebrate harvest, not Halloween. If you want to see witches you can, but if you don’t, then you’re not exposed to it.”
The U-pick patch and activities will be open seven days a week, 9 a.m. until dusk Oct. 3-31.
Contact Susan Woods at 503-393-0110 for information about classroom tours.