Pumpkin patches offer a getaway to cooped-up families

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Brynn Toomasson

A walk through Arata’s Pumpkin Farm shows the rows of pumpkins on display.

Fall, the beginning of cold weather, is full of refreshing breezes, steaming coffee, and crunchy leaves. It is also the time of year where pumpkins roll into town, ready to be used as warm decorations or frightening jack-o’-lanterns. 

Pumpkins have been around for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until the jack-o’-lanterns when they came into greater use. Dating back to the 19th century, Americans have used the term jack-o’-lanterns to describe the carved hollowed pumpkins, although the activity is much older than the term itself. Hundreds of years ago, people in Scotland and Ireland would carve out scary faces in turnips and other stemmed vegetables and light them with candles or coal, to scare away the bad spirits that would come out on the night of Halloween, including Stingy Jack, hence the term Jack-o-lantern. In the New World, turnips were replaced with pumpkins due to their abundance in America. Since then, people have been carving pumpkin lanterns to usher in the cold weather.

Social distancing restrictions have made it difficult for people to get into the spirit of autumn; however, pumpkin patches have made adjustments, allowing them to remain a staple for all to enjoy the typical festivities. Webb Ranch Pumpkin Patch, in Portola Valley, has placed guidelines such as mandatory face masks, temperature checks at the gate, and sanitation stationsAnother common restriction used to limit the spread of the virus is the halt of walk-in customers.  

“The patch has had a decrease in the number of customers because we’re doing it by appointment. We can only have a certain amount of people at a time,” said Chelly Cerillo, a second-year employee at Webb Ranch.

The appointments have made it difficult not only for the business but for the employees as well.

“There wasn’t enough money to give to employees, so we had to cut down on days,” Cerillo said. 

John Muller of Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, also known as Farmer John, has had a different experience with his pumpkin patches this year. He said his business was up “100%,” despite social distancing restrictions. In addition to quarantine fatigue, Muller believes that people have found a sanctuary in Half Moon Bay away from the hazardous smoke due to the coasts’ natural filter. Muller has witnessed increasing numbers of customers local and far from north and south California, even from other states, like Nevada. He has expressed that one of his highlights of the day was meeting new people of all races and cultures. Muller stresses the value of equality towards his customers, inviting all backgrounds to come to enjoy the farm.

“We have never seen the wonderful crowds we are getting this year in the history of our farm,” Muller said, “people have been cooped up for many months, and families and children want to get out and play.”

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Delfina Bianchi, a freshman at Carlmont, helps her grandfather keep up with the upcoming business. Although the situation greatly worried her, she’s happy to support Farmer John.

“With COVID-19, we thought it would be a mistake [to open the farm], but it turned out to be a really great success!” Bianchi said. “I’m really glad my grandparents were able to help the fall festivities continue.”

Although the pandemic has greatly limited outdoor excursions to enjoy the cool air and revel in the fall spirit, pumpkin patches like Webb Ranch and Farmer John’s are working hard to make sure that people can still enjoy the staples of the season.