by Carolyn Lucas-Zenk
Excited shrieks, laughter and the patter of little feet could be heard Sunday morning at the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch.
Children ran through rows, often with family members or friends, in search of the perfect pumpkin.
For Shaynee Akina, the hardest decision was not deciding between the perfectly rotund or the delightfully deformed. Instead, the 8-year-old Kohala resident was stuck on what to do with the big, bumpy pumpkin she spied all alone in a corner of the patch.
“I can carve it, put in front of our house or bake into a pie,” she said. “It’s kind of crooked so it be hard to carve because it will fall over. But I like it. So I can eat it.”
Seven-year-old Kayli Wilson said she’s tired of traditional looking jack-o’-lanterns with triangular eyes and jagged, toothy grin. This year, she planned to get the skinniest pumpkin available and carve a long, silly face on it. She scanned the different shapes and sizes in the patch with her 5-year-old twin brothers, Kai and Makena.
Kai was prepared for his first visit to West Hawaii’s live pumpkin patch. He impressed his parents, Lori and Jayson, with his knowledge of the life cycle of the bright orange orbs. With confidence, Kai explained the flowers seen in the field produced the pumpkins — something he learned last week from his teacher.
by Carolyn Lucas-Zenk
For Lori and Jayson, a visit to the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch was a wonderful way of creating family traditions and memories of autumn. The Waimea couple hopes their children will carry on this nostalgic activity with their families one day.
The picturesque patch is located on the makai side of Kohala Mountain Road between Kahua Ranch and Paniolo Adventures, between mile-markers 12 and 13. Run by enthusiastic volunteers, it is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends until Oct. 30 or until the pumpkins are sold out. The pumpkins cost 75 cents a pound and a portion of the proceeds will go towards Waimea Country School’s garden program. There is no entry fee and parking is free, said Stacy Hasegawa, coordinator of this North Kohala Community Resource Center project.
Over the past four years, the patch has supplied pumpkins to various Big Island schools, including Hawaii Preparatory Academy, which holds its annual Pumpkin Patch Festival. This is the first year it has been open to public picking, Hasegawa said.
The Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch is the brainchild of Hasegawa, who has a degree in agriculture from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and used to work at Aloun Farms on Oahu. She started the highly successful pumpkin patch and hands-on educational program there. She regularly witnessed the value and lessons the public can learn by visiting working farms.
Wanting to start something similar on the Big Island, Hasegawa approached Kahua Ranch, as well as its leasees Kevin Ontiveros and Greg Pedigo, about growing pumpkins on a 23-acre farm that ceased production in 2008. Kahua Ranch welcomed the idea and generously donated the one-and-a-half-acre plot.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this if it wasn’t for Kahua Ranch, especially (president and general manager) Tim Richards,” she said. “The ranch has always been open to alternative uses of its land, diversifying and providing community service. I’m really grateful for this opportunity and for the ranch’s support.”
The friendly scarecrow greeting the patch’s visitors is a clear sign of Hasegawa’s appreciation. It’s of Kahua Ranch chairman Monty Richards and has his trademark red suspenders.
This project also received donations from the North Kohala Community Resource Center, Home Depot, Kona Irrigation and various residents.
With the help of Chris Robb, owner of Robb Farms, Hasegawa planted earlier this year pumpkin seeds. Then in June, she and best friend Kimberly Drake planted 3,000 starters.
A month later, “a horrible wind storm” came, leaving a twisted mess of vines, mud and about half of the plants. The friends had to replant the pumpkins. Hasegawa said it takes pumpkins approximately 80 to 100 days to mature. She expected to harvest about 2,000 pumpkins this year.
Since the patch opened Oct. 9, Hasegawa estimated roughly 1,000 pumpkins have been sold. People from as faraway as Hookena, Ka’u and Hilo have visited the patch. Roughly 98 percent of the visitors claim they have never explored a live pumpkin patch before, she said.
For more information, call 345-6323 or visit Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch on Facebook.