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Updated: October 9, 2022 @ 11:59 pm
After visiting other pumpkin farms, Sam Ripley decided to build his own. He has two separate patches totaling about an acre and a half; and grows a variety of shapes, colors and sizes.

After visiting other pumpkin farms, Sam Ripley decided to build his own. He has two separate patches totaling about an acre and a half; and grows a variety of shapes, colors and sizes.
When Sam Ripley was 13 years old, he started to raise pumpkins and sell them from a hayrack (with orange wheels) at a gas station in Montevideo, Minn.; but he already had bigger ideas in mind.
“That’s how we started selling the first few years,” Sam said. “It worked really good. When we got to last year I decided it would be cool to try a new venture, so we started having the people come to the farm.”
While the pumpkins are his business, he says “we” a lot because of all the support and physical help from his parents, Scott and Jana.
But, “This is his doing,” Jana said. “He’s made money to fund this.”  In fact, she said, his first customer-based enterprise was in Middle School when he had a small flock of hens and sold eggs.
His father said Sam has had ideas since he could walk — always recreating at their farm site events he had attended.
“He’d been to pumpkin patches and saw this as something we could pull off here,” Scott said. “It’s all him. The ideas and every dollar put into it is his. He’s earned money doing other things. He got going by raising and selling the pumpkins in town.”
Now a senior in high school and thinking of studying business administration next year in college, Sam is in the second year of his expanded business venture — hosting people at the farm where buying a pumpkin is only one of the many activities.
Sam got into the pumpkin business the way he does most of his ventures: by just doing it. (He is also a self-taught auctioneer — something he grew to like attending auctions with his dad.)  He did not expend time by researching how to grow pumpkins.
“I just read the seed packet,” he said.
His dad let Sam till about one-half of an acre from a pasture he rents to a farmer. He did it with a walk-behind tiller. Last year, the first year for hosting customers, he added another acre up the hill from the original patch. For that he hired it done with a tractor-mounted tiller.
Sam has his own approach based on his own experience, which isn’t always orthodox. He plants his hills six feet apart, using 5-6 seeds rather than the recommended 3-4 seeds per hill. And once they germinate, he does not thin them out as recommended.
“Once they’re growing, I just let them grow,” he said. That’s worked for him in the past, so he kept it up this year.
The growing conditions the plants like are sun and rain. He got about 100 percent germination in his sunny pumpkin patches, except for two hills in the shade of a borderline tree. This year the rain came when needed; but not last year when it was very dry.
“Last year I actually watered it all by hand,” Sam said. He purchased hundreds of feet of garden hose to stretch from a hydrant near the buildings all the way to the back of the one-acre patch. It paid off with a good crop.
The only pests he has encountered also came last year — the cucumber beetle. The beetles came when the plants were just starting to bush out. He hand-sprayed the patch to eliminate the beetles and the plants recovered for an excellent crop.
Weeds are easiest to deal with when the plants are small, he said. The hills are spaced six feet apart so the man hired to till the soil in the spring with his five-foot tiller can come back and tilled out the weeds. When the plants begin to bush out, Sam has to switch to hoeing.
“I actually worked construction this summer, so my dad helped me out a lot [with the hoeing],” he said. “Once the vines take over, the weeding is over.”
His new patch is very productive, the older one less so. He figures it is time to rotate that one to a different spot.
Sam began with seed from Jung Seed, but for his main plot he purchases seed from a commercial pumpkin seed company. He buys mostly for orange pumpkins, but also white — which has become a popular decorating pumpkin and sold out last year. He also plants the colored pumpkins decorators like, such as pink, blue, green, striped, and warty-skinned varieties.
The commercial seed company requires purchase of a minimum quantity, which he can meet because he orders a larger number of seeds than he expects to use. (He has saved some seed in case he ran out, but has not needed it.)
“The goal is to have a lot of pumpkins left at the end of the year,” he said, “more than you want to sell because those last weekends you don’t want it to look bad out there.”
He wants the people who come the last weekend to have as good of an experience as those who come earlier. The leftovers don’t go to waste. A farmer up the road comes to load his huge manure spreader and spread the extras on his fields for compost. Ripley gives them to the farmer in what he calls a “win-win” situation: the farmer gets compost and he gets the patch cleared off for next year.
A promoter as well as a businessman, Ripley has solicited financial support from area businesses. He’s looking forward to another busy season. Almost 5,000 people came last year. His schedule for school tours is full, and he has a scheduled visit by a home bringing folks in wheelchairs. Hospitality is part of his entrepreneurship.
“I liked the whole idea of doing this,” he said. “I wanted [a business] I could have all these extra activities with.”
With the pumpkin picking (some folks pick wheelbarrows full for decorating, he said), there is a field full of activities for kids and adults, a petting zoo, concession stand, gift shop, hayrides, and this year, to honor veterans, a flyover by WWII planes from Fagen Fighters in Granite Falls. (The flyover was not scheduled when this story was written. Check his Facebook page.)
It’s a lot of work, a lot of coordinating, a lot of bringing an idea to reality, and Sam Ripley seems to be having a good time. In a sense, it’s on-the-job training.
“I’m getting a lot of first-hand experience with the business world,” he said.
Sam’s Pumpkin Patch is open Saturdays and Sundays (and Thursday/Friday during MEA weekend) through Oct. 30 — Saturdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sundays noon – 5 p.m. A $5 admission fee for age two and up includes all activities (except Gemstone Mining and Laser Tag).
Sam’s Pumpkin Patch is at 4425 186th Street, just south of Montevideo.
Check SamPumpkinPatch on Facebook, or the website   
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