LAWRENCE, Kan. - When it comes to farming, Mother Nature is boss.
Larry Schaake knows that firsthand.
“She holds the cards all the time, whether you like to think that or not, she does,” he explained.
Schaake and his wife own Schaake’s Pumpkin Patch in Lawrence, Kan. The patch is surrounded by acres of corn and soybeans. Total, Schaake tends 80 acres.
“The corn crop is pretty much toasted,” Schaake said.
The dry weather and extreme heat has ruined his chances for a corn crop this year. Schaake is just hoping to convert his corn into cattle feed. The verdict is still out on his soybean crop.
“With the crop insurance, we might break even this year with all of our expenses,” he said.
However, pumpkins are a different story.
“Basically, there are five families living off this 30 acres of pumpkins," Schaake explained.
He and his wife split the pumpkin revenue with each of their four children. It’s truly a family business -- each of those children was able to pay for college with their pumpkin money.
Now, Larry and Janet Schaake have ten grandkids. They hope to keep the pumpkin patch alive long enough to watch the same success grow for a third generation.
“Our weekends are busy with families coming out and usually are pretty busy with school groups coming out,” said Janet Schaake.
Schaake’s Pumpkin Patch opens for business the last week of September and runs through the end of October. Families and school students come from all over to jump on a hayride and pick their very own pumpkin out of the patch.
But the dry weather this summer is threatening that fun.
So, Larry has gotten creative.
“We had to put some drip irrigation on them to try to get them up, try to keep them alive during this hot weather,” he explained.
“It normally puts on about two tenths of a gallon a minute per hundred foot,” Larry continued, “So, you're not putting a lot of water on but during a 24-hour period of time, you can see how it soaked the rows, and you don't waste the water.”
The method conserves what little well water the Schaake family has available to them. But the labor it requires is extensive.
“First thing in the morning, at 6 o’clock, we'll come out and check it then,” Larry said, “And we'll be out there hoeing, and we'll checking them every three to four hours I guess.”
The 108,000 feet of drip tape roll and tens of thousands of gallons of well water may just do the trick. At least, they hope so.
“We've met a lot of wonderful people. And, as Larry says, the income is good,” explained Janet, “So we all rest well in November.”
Larry and Janet get help from their three daughters and their daughter in law during the summer months and through October. The Schaake Pumpkin Patch is truly a family-run operation.
This year, they’re just hoping the weather doesn’t get the best of their profit and their fun.
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