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Pining for the Pumpkin Patch

Region spared from national pumpkin shortage
by: Lisa K. Anderson Henry and James Loos take a break from meandering in the pumpkin patch at Liepold Farms in Boring.

Despite pumpkin crops being wiped out on the East Coast, the Midwest and even regionally, farms in Multnomah and Clackamas counties are taking on an orange glow.

Hurricane Irene is to blame for the East Coast shortage, while drought ravaged pumpkin crops in the Midwest.

Weather also played a role in fewer pumpkins being available locally, said Larry Thompson of Thompson Farms in Damascus.

'It all depended on when they planted and what the weather was when they planted,' he said.

First, a sudden freakish freeze struck in early November last year, causing temperatures to dip from the mid-40s to 15 degrees in less than a day. 'That was pretty deadly,' Thompson said.

Next, a colder-than-usual spring prevented blossoms from germinating. That's because masonbees and honeybees only fly when the mercury hits 65 degrees. Bumblebees are heartier, flying at 55 degrees, but they're few and far between in the Northwest.

No bees, no pollination, 'then there are no pumpkins,' Thompson said. 'I know some farmers who lost almost all their pumpkins. They've had to truck them in from Eastern Oregon.'

But not Thompson. The life-long farmer knows the importance of crop diversification and staggered his planting of three rounds of pumpkins.

Round one did pretty well. Round two: 'Well, it was terrible,' he said.

A phenomenal round three, however, made up for it. It also helps that Thompson keeps 40 beehives on his farm to ensure pollination.

Other farmers' pumpkin patches also faired well.

The bumper crop means Liepold Farms owner Marcia Liepold will continue to enjoy her favorite season - fall.

Among her favorite memories from the fall festival her family hosts at Liepold Farms is a post hayride statement from a preschool boy, who looked at Liepold admiringly and said, 'Thank you, lady farmer.'

'This is the most fun thing we do, and they're so appreciative,' Liepold said of the families who frequent the farm in October.

It isn't just the little kids whom Liepold Farms enchant. Kyle Ikola has worked 10 seasons of the fall festival, beginning in high school. Other young staff members return for the festive ambience, too.

As the resident hayride driver and storyteller, Ikola follows a theme for his talks each year. This year's theme is, 'It's a berry good life,' which chronicles the journey of the berry from the farms to stands, Burgerville, markets and canneries. Ikola also talks about how a pumpkin grows as the hayride passengers drive through themed sets such as the Blues Brothers.

This season, the Liepold Farms fall festival will host two late nights from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 and Wednesday, Oct. 26. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, a portion of entrance fees will benefit a scholarship Liepold established in her mother's name for two graduating seniors from Sandy High School.

Anna Mae Carr, Liepold's mother, was a single mother who cared deeply about children and education.

Fall festival activities include a pumpkin patch, corn maze (with a challenge to find all dead ends for a prize), 'pumpkin pult' (launching a pumpkin at a target) hay maze, hayride, children's pavilion - complete with a tricycle race course, hide and seek castle maze, and corn bin - and weekend pony rides benefiting Oregon Animal Rescue. Parking is free, and activities range in price from $1 to $7.

Local pumpkin patches

• Bushue's Family Farm Market and Nursery

WHERE: 9880 S.E. Revenue Road, Boring.

WHAT: Pumpkin patch, tractor rides, hay maze, cow train, meet the farm animals, create a 'dirt baby.'

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

CONTACT: 503-663-6709 or visit bushuefarming

.com.

• Cereghino Farms Produce Market

WHERE: 18641 N.E. Sandy Blvd., Gresham.

WHAT: Pumpkin patch, haystacks for kids to play on.

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

CONTACT: 503-665-4351.

• Liepold Farms

WHERE: 14050 S.E. Richey Road, Boring.

WHAT: Children can use kid-sized wheelbarrows to maneuver their own pumpkins to the weigh scales. Other attractions: corn maze, pumpkin-pult, children's pavilion, hayrides, weekend pony rides, hay maze and a café featuring sausage dogs, nachos, caramel corn, mulled apple cider and hand-dipped caramel apples.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day through Oct. 31 (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 15 and 26).

CONTACT: Call 503-663-5880 or visit liepoldfarms.com.

• Olson Farms

WHERE: 22255 S.E. Borges Road, or the corner of 222nd Avenue and Borges Road, Damascus.

WHAT: Pumpkin patch (U-pick or already-picked). Horse-drawn hayrides to the pumpkin patch are on the weekends, free with the purchase of a pumpkin.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

CONTACT: 503-658-2237 or visit olson-farms.com or its Facebook page.

• Thompson Farms

WHERE: Corner of Southeast 242nd Avenue and Bohna Park Road, Damascus.

WHAT: Pumpkin patch and produce stand.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.

CONTACT: 503-658-4640.

Reporter Mara Stine contributed to this story.