Jake Gust was just 3 years old when he started selling pumpkins with his older brothers from a small patch on their family farm in Ottawa Lake, Mich. Now, 23 years later, he and his brothers are still planting harvest décor for families all over northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
"I was pretty little when we started this," he said. "I could barely carry the big pumpkins around. Today, we plant about 20 acres of different varieties of pumpkins and gourds. It gets pretty busy around here."
His oldest brother, Nate, is the athletic director for Whiteford Schools, but handles the concessions on the weekends at the pumpkin farm. The next Gust brother, Joe, works for a soil consulting firm. He handles the mum production of the operation. And their baby brother, David, works for Crop Production Services in Blissfield and is instrumental in getting the pumpkins planted.
"I took to the vegetables," said Jake Gust, who is an agriculture teacher and FFA leader at a school in Hillsdale County.
"I like to grow the giant pumpkins as a hobby. We grew a 380-pounder this year," he said. They grow more than 25 varieties of pumpkins and gourds in all shapes and colors. "One of our most popular pumpkins is the Cinderella because they have a nice shape and vibrant colors."
Pick your own
Families have been able to run around their huge patch and pick their own pumpkins, so why not their own vegetables and flowers? That's what Jake thought. So he mapped out a plan to grow more vegetables this year.
"I'd say we have over 30 varieties of vegetables and families really love it. You can pick as much as you can to fit into a peck basket for $6," Mr. Gust said.
His U-Pick garden is still bursting with tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, radishes, green beans, sweet potatoes, other potatoes, brussell sprouts, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, summer squash and zucchini.
"Some families don't have the space to grow a vegetable garden in their yard, so this is a way they can get fresh produce and do the fun things, like picking it," Mr. Gust said. "So we concentrated all of these popular vegetables in an acre or so.
"I feel like we are really giving families a great experience to share," he said. "Some kids have never seen vegetables like this growing in the garden. One family said they had no idea on how they would eat all of the vegetables they picked, but they just couldn't stop. That is really fun."