Shop talk: Papa's Pumpkin Patch
Owner of Papa's discusses operations and hopes for the farm and its future
Address: 3909 S. Summerton Road, Mount Pleasant
Phone: (989) 773-4345
It’s fall time, which means people are looking for hayrides, apple cider, and of course, pumpkins, and Papa’s Pumpkin Patch offers all of these seasonal favorites.
Papa’s Pumpkin Patch can be divided into two entities: the shop and the farm. The shop is owned by William Miller Jr., and the farm is owned by his parents. The shop opened in 2000, with Miller taking over in 2007.
When first walking onto the property, customers are greeted by a large, red barn with rows of pumpkins laid out front. Past the pumpkins, there are large wooden bins of various types of apples and gourds. Inside, Miller, his wife, and other employees are friendly chatting with customers.
At the shop, people can buy crops grown locally in the farm. Throughout the year they grow and sell asparagus, apples, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, sweet corn and pumpkins. They also sell Amish made jams and jellies, and make fresh doughnuts, pies and cookies.
Central Michigan Life spoke with Miller about the store, and what it provides to the community.
CM Life: What is Papa’s Pumpkin Patch about?
Miller: Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is effectively a children’s entertainment farm. My parents bought the farm in 1973, and my father was a teacher at the college. When he retired in 2000, he wanted to share the farm with the community. So, he though he would start growing pumpkins in the fall. It was open for about four weeks every fall until it got overwhelming. So, me and my wife took over the business. So, we’re just continuing the children’s entertainment.
What activities do you provide?
Our big thing is the hayride. We offer a hayride tour of the farm. The kids and grown-ups get to stop at the pumpkin patch and pick a pumpkin. Usually, we offer a big pumpkin, little pumpkin, and a gourd. Everybody walks out from the field with some unique things. We do that primarily seven days a week. On the weekends, we do it on demand. During the week, we do it by appointment. We do a lot of school groups, daycares, registered student organizations from the university, and fraternity groups come and participate with the hayride. Usually at the end of the hayride we’ll come inside and have cider and donuts. If it’s later in the evenings we have a bonfire, gather around, and have a real nice social evening.
So, you like building the community aspect of your business?
Yes. Community and neighbors are very important to my parents who founded this, so we’re trying to carry on this tradition.
How busy are you at this time of year?
As a business, we do about 75 percent of our business in September and October. The other season we’re busy is strawberries in the spring. But this is effectively the only month we need to be here, but we have to be here earlier to be prepared for this month. So that’s why we’re open for about five or six months a year.
What kind of atmosphere do you want to create?
My parents want education. They want kids to know where their food comes from. They want our mission statement to be ‘play and being outside is good for the mind and the body.’ They look at kids on computers and obesity among young people. They want to provide an area where kids can come out and get away from that.
What do you like most about running the store?
I like being outside. It takes a toll on your body, so I don’t know how much longer we can do this. Hopefully until we break right down. The best aspect though is the kids. They are the only people you will ever meet that don’t have an agenda. They tell you the way it is and tell you the way it’s going to be, and they believe it.
Other than the crops you grow, what other products do you sell?
We have bakery that we’re working on. We’ll do hundreds and hundreds of dozens (of doughnuts) on the weekends. We do cookies, cakes, some pies, and ice cream. We have an ice cream shop that’s really popular. Everyone likes ice cream.
What is made on site?
We manufacture the donuts on site. We mix up a lot of the cookie dough on site. The we do bring in some frozen, because it’s just too much for us to make here.
Where do you get your apple cider?
We get our cider from Anderson and Girls Orchards down by Stanton. The reason we get it from them is because they have a laser pasteurizing system. It doesn’t heat the cider up. It stays cool when it’s pasteurized. You must sell pasteurized cider when the apples are not grown on site. That’s a state of Michigan law.
Do you get all your food products from Michigan?
Most of what we get we try to get from Michigan. Some things we get out of Ohio, but they do say they get a lot of their raw materials from Michigan. That’s because Michigan is second behind California in the variety of things we produce. We lead the nation in blueberries, cherries and asparagus. If your getting jams or jellies from another state, you’re probably getting it from Michigan.
Is a lot of the stuff you sell homegrown and homemade?
A lot of it is homegrown and homemade. Some of it is processed by bigger plants and corporations. Oddly enough, we get a lot of stuff from an Amish corporation with computer technologies. Some of our jams and jellies come from that. It doesn’t sound right, but it’s accurate.
What do you hope for the future of the store?
I hope it can carry on. I have two daughters who aren’t interested in farming anymore. If we can get it to a point where it’s really profitable, maybe we can sell it to someone who can take it over. It might return to an old farmstead. Every business has its life cycle. Businesses are born, they live and they die.