Jim Bennett owns Bennett Farms in Heflin. The farm has been in his family for four generations. Bennett added a pumpkin patch to the farm after finding inspiration in the middle of the night several years ago.
Why did you decide to add a pumpkin patch to Bennett Farms?
I woke up from a dream thinking, "If you plant it, they will come." I thought back to the dream, which was about taking my daughter to a pumpkin patch. I woke my wife up to tell her about it, and she told me to go back to sleep (laughter). I got up and started writing down my ideas.
What kinds of pumpkins do you have?
We have larger Atlantic Giants, which are 25 to 30 pounds, jack-o’-lantern size pumpkins and Field Trip pumpkins — Field Trip is the name of that kind of pumpkin, and it is the kind that schoolchildren get when they come here on a field trip. We also have some Harvest Moon pumpkins, which are white, and other ornamental pumpkins. We typically grow about 5,000 pumpkins for the season.
Is there a particular kind of pumpkin that is easier to grow in this area?
The ones I plant are resistant to some of the fungi that pumpkins can get, but with the humidity and moisture in the South, you are always going to have problems with fungi as well as pests.
Describe the process of growing pumpkins.
From the time you plant the seed until harvest, it takes about 100 to 110 days. We plant in stages: the last week of June and the first week of July.
Do you sell goods to stores or at farmers markets?
Everything we grow here, we sell on site. We have apple pies, hay bales, ironworks, lye soaps, meat skins, mums, pottery, tea cakes and other homemade goods for sale.
In addition to the pumpkin patch, what other activities does Bennett Farms offer?
We have a tractor-pulled hay ride that goes around the farm, petting farm, corn crib with dry corn for children to play in, hay maze, wagon train and a cookhouse where all of our food is cooked over an open fire. We have a working syrup mill where we make sorghum syrup. I try to make everything here wheelchair-accessible as well, including the hay ride.
Why did you create this pumpkin patch and farm experience?
I created this opportunity to let others have a safe, family-friendly and fun learning experience. Guests get to learn the way things were done in days past. My granddad, Hugh Bennett, was the inspiration behind this whole idea.
What influence did your granddad have on you?
He taught me a lot about how to live — that it is not so much about what you want but what you need. When I was a child, he would pick me up on Saturdays and take me to work. He instilled my work ethic; he expected a lot out of me, and I always pushed myself to make him proud. He died the year we opened the farm, but I was able to tell him about it before he passed away, and he liked the idea.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
This place is my passion. It is a lot of work, and it is not just me — an assortment of people really help make this place happen. Each year we try to add something new to the farm. This year we have added a windmill and a tipi. I love seeing kids of all ages learning something new and enjoying themselves.
Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.