Four brothers operate pumpkin patch on family farm

On a small, half-acre piece of land on a farm just north of Scranton, Jordan, Connor, Warrick and Malachi Dilse have been growing a business and an experience for the region.

Dilse brothers Jordan, Connor, Warrick & Malachi sit behind the bed of a tractor, filled with pumpkins from their pumpkin patch, Pumpkin Junction. The four brothers maintain it from spring to fall when they open up their patch to the public.
Dilse brothers Jordan, Connor, Warrick & Malachi sit behind the bed of a tractor, filled with pumpkins from their pumpkin patch, Pumpkin Junction. The four brothers maintain it from spring to fall when they open up their patch to the public.

Posted October 10, 2014

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

On a small, half-acre piece of land on a farm just north of Scranton, Jordan, Connor, Warrick and Malachi Dilse have been growing a business and an experience for the region.

The Dilse boys entered into their fifth season as the entrepreneurs of their pumpkin patch, Pumpkin Junction. An idea that was fostered by themselves and started with a little help from their parents.

According to Stuart Dilse, the boys’ father, they utilized that piece of land due to the amount of moisture they received five years ago. The half-acre was too wet to plant wheat and they thought it was as good a time as ever to begin their venture.

Initially planting only one-third of the acre, they enjoyed it enough to try it again the next season and start to promote it.

But they needed a name.

After some thought and a little guidance from their mother, Katie Dilse, they decided on Pumpkin Junction—a name that’s both catchy and fitting as the patch sits at a junction in the road between their home and another piece of land where their farming equipment sits.

The venture is truly a family affair.

“We have a couple of jobs, but we each do each of them,” Jordan said.

All four boys participate and the responsibilities are rotated between the four of them.

Among the responsibilities, the daunting task of hand weeding was what both Jordan and Connor said was one of the hardest parts of their project. Though, making sure the pumpkins grow into a nice, round shape is also a feat of its own, as they have to walk the patch and hand-rotate each pumpkin.

This year the group of brothers faced a new obstacle: An early freeze.

Usually, Pumpkin Junction yields over 1,000 pumpkins. This year, the group had only about 350 because of the early cold weather.

“We have to plant them earlier and they’ll get ripe quicker,” Jordan said.

That is just one option for the boys to take next year when trying to avoid a low crop yield. Part of it, however, is the type of pumpkins they planted.

“The seed varieties didn’t make it because they were late on maturing,” Warrick said. “Because they had a longer maturation day [length].”

This year, they planted pumpkins that have a maturation length of about 85 days. Next year, they hope to select pumpkins that can mature in about 60 days, according to Jordan. If they had been more mature, more pumpkins would have survived the early freeze.

The boys were sad for only a brief moment before quickly turning their frowns upside down, according to Katie. The boys decided they could still be successful even if they were only open for one day. Traditionally, Pumpkin Junction is open five or six days each season.

Though they had cookies and drinks as usual, this year they added to the fun and started a tractor-pulled hayride.

Pumpkin Junction is a fun project for the brothers, but it also has become a learning tool for them.

“They’re learning a lot of family skills and a lot of life skills and a lot about farming and working with earth,” Katie said.

When you approach Pumpkin Junction, you can see a section of land directly adjacent to the pumpkin patch growing corn. Why is this? Crop rotation.

Crop rotation is a method of alternating the types of crop grown in one place to provide other nutrients to the soil and can prevent diseases to the crops.

Overall, between watering, rotating the pumpkins and weeding—all done by hand—the Dilse boys spend about 10 hours each week tending to their pumpkins.

When asked what part is the most fun to them, they gave a variety of answers—Jordan enjoys the satisfaction of the crop and seeing the finished product; Connor likes seeing his friends out at the patch, while Malachi enjoys picking the pumpkins; Warrick likes what he does for the people who come out.

“Probably seeing all the happy customers and knowing we’re making that happen,” Warrick added.

With all the work their venture takes, it would seem natural that they have a large amount of parental guidance. But that’s not the case with the Dilses. “We try to stand back,” Katie said.

They are there, however, whenever the boys need some encouragement and support.

The future of Pumpkin Junction seems to be as unpredictable as their annual pumpkin yields.

Jordan hopes to expand, Connor would like a later frost, Warrick hopes they can still continue it even with their busy schedules and Malachi wants a dryer year next year.

Whatever happens next, the Dilse boys have made something together and they hoped it translates to a good experience for their customers.

When asked what the pumpkin patch meant to them, Jordan said, “It’s the family bonding.’ He also wanted to clarify that the bonding isn’t just for the Dilse family, but for everyone that comes out and picks a pumpkin of their own.

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