CHICAGO ( MainStreet) -- A visit to the local pumpkin patch has become an October ritual for many families. Yes, you could pick up your jack-o-lantern-to-be at a big-box store, but there's nothing like a fall farm outing to connect you with nature. And where else can you take those "kids surrounded by pumpkins" pictures to send to Grandma?Pumpkin patches are a modern outgrowth of a quintessentially American small business, the family farm. Farmers who can no longer support themselves solely through agriculture have stayed solvent by expanding beyond pumpkins into mini-entertainment venues. Building corn mazes and petting zoos may not technically be farming, but the revenue they bring in allows land to stay in the family.
|What can a simple pumpkin patch teach you about running a business? Plenty, it turns out, including that a pumpkin patch can be about much more than pumpkins.|
Families may come to a farm to buy a pumpkin, but they'll stay longer and spend far more if there are other activities that allow them to make a day of it. Pony rides, hay mazes and apple cider sales are natural add-ons that complement the farm environment; a video game arcade is not. 2. Vary your offerings to expand your appeal.
A farm that draws families during the day can be adapted for corporate events or weddings in the evenings. An open house or cocktail party can introduce the property to potential clients, as well as community members who can generate local word of mouth. 3. Nostalgia sells.
Urban and suburban parents want their children to understand and appreciate their country's agricultural past, and they're willing to pay for activities that are both educational and fun. Some family farms have even expanded into rustic B&Bs, where vacationing kids and their parents help out with chores and bond with the animals. Families such as the Peltzers believe their farms serve a public service, by allowing visitors to maintain a connection to the land. But it takes creative thinking and tough physical labor to keep a family farm going. Luckily, the Peltzers can handle it: "I say I want it to look like this," Carrie says, "and my husband builds it." >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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