If you grew up in Northern Arkansas, it’s a good bet you remember a school field trip or two to Pumpkin Hollow. Since 1991, this family business has become Piggott’s premiere destination for fall family fun.
It was nearly three decades ago that Farm Credit customers Darrell and Ellen Dalton got the idea to wade into the pumpkin-growing business, growing a big field and selling the crop to a pumpkin patch near St. Louis. Afterward, an idea was born. The couple envisioned a similar business could work right there in Northeast Arkansas, so they planted the pumpkins, decorated a dairy barn on property, gathered a crew, and opened for business. The rest is history.
Pumpkin Hollow is open for fun each year every day, seven days a week, from mid-September through October 31. The traditional experience remains—choosing and picking pumpkins, hay rides and the petting zoo—but is now enhanced by haunted attractions, putt-putt, a corn maze, a zip line, and the Pumpkin Hollow store. There is also a kids’ barn chock-full of activities, a huge slide and the forest play areas.
“We didn’t realize, when we opened up field trip opportunities to schools, that there were so many children living in this rural area of the state who have never really been on a farm, didn’t know how pumpkins grew, and had never touched or fed a farm animal,” Ellen shared. “Now, the visit is a memory those students will always have and one they are now sharing with their own children. That’s probably the thing that’s most satisfying.”
The Off Season
Ellen laughs when asked what the team does during the “off season;” mostly because, well, there is no real off season. It is true during the busiest time in the fall there are teams of 30 employees staffing Pumpkin Hollow during the day and up to 120 in the evening. But, there are full-time employees that work year round as well: two who work full-time focused solely on haunted attractions! Her team is busy with gourd harvest in December and filling Pumpkin Hollow Gourds orders around the world right afterward. Typically they will also travel to five spring gourd shows. The Daltons also run a cattle operation too; so no, downtime is not an issue.
Memories Still Made
The family has been a Farm Credit member for nearly a decade. The Association has helped them fund a number of capital improvements to their property, as well as provided an operating loan. But this season—operating under all the unknowns of a pandemic—was a first. Fortunately, Ellen reports the season fared better than anticipated and it turned out to be a good year. It was a challenge to accommodate new rules of operation, but she hired two staff members for day and night cleaning and installed more than a few hand sanitizers throughout the property. Guests complied without a problem. And fortunately, her team made it through the season with no Covid-19 problems.
One possible advantage Pumpkin Hollow had during this time was the opportunity for safe, outdoor fun and escape. The business saw increased daytime weekday traffic, possibly due to remote learning and more flexibility in students’ days.
“What was lost in school field trips this year was somewhat made up by kids who were learning remotely or home schooled and could visit during the day,” Ellen noted. “Pumpkin Hollow was still able to provide that family tradition families look forward to.”