Type anything to search the archives

Planting Seeds

story by Joan Lederer

Pumpkin blossoms in hand, Lisa Grief looks out over a patch full of children. As farm workers pass around small vanilla-colored seeds, Lisa dips into her knowledge of growing food and repackages it for an audience of kindergartners.

"Where do pumpkins come from? Do they come from witches?" she asks. A chorus of voices rejects the preposterous notion. "I know," she continues. "They come from Walmarts."

Again, the children call out the lie.

"Well, where do pumpkins come from?" she asks.

"From seeds!" they scream.

It's music to her ears. One of three siblings running Wurth Farm, Lisa sees hundreds of school children visit each year to pick pumpkins. The draw for adorable photos of tiny hands grasping at pumpkin stems has kept the farm afloat. It has also created a platform for Lisa and her brothers to share their work with a community that has become disconnected from farm life and the food it provides.

In an age when few children know where food comes from, the Wurths feel a responsibility to educate "our future voters." Jim Wurth, Lisa's brother, says some of the kids are in such awe of the rural surroundings "you'd think this was an African Safari."

IMG_2

Jim, 58, spends a lot of time driving to and from fields where he and his siblings grow strawberries, flowers and pumpkins. They work independently but rely on their cell phones to stay in touch throughout the day.

IMG_3

A caravan of hayride tractors travel three-quarters of a mile from the center of the farm to the pumpkin patch. The riders pass by ghosts in trees and witches on brooms that celebrate Halloween. Cows graze nearby. It's a popular field trip for school groups, but the weekends are dominated by families.

IMG_4

Two children explore the pumpkin patch at Wurth Farm during a preschool class's field trip. Practically a rite of passage, hundreds of school children and families visit the farm for hay rides and pumpkins each year in October.

IMG_5

Steve Wurth, 66, rides a 14-year-old mare to herd cattle. His horses and cows share a grazing space to get comfortable with each other. The cattle are moved to different pastures and herded away from the pumpkin patch when children visit.

IMG_6

Steve moves mums he grows and sells at the Wurth farm store. In addition to the flowers, the store carries strawberries and pumpkins. Steve has a masters in mathematics, but after teaching for a year, he decided he was more suited for farm life. He likes to live near family.

IMG_7

Ginger Binkley, an aide at Lone Oak Intermediate School, snuggles with some of her students while waiting for cookies and cider. Each child who visits the farm leaves with a pumpkin seed to plant, a coloring book and a small pumpkin.

IMG_8

Barbara McNeil, Jim and Steve's cousin, makes hundreds of caramel apples in the farmhouse kitchen. Three generations of Wurths have lived in this house.

IMG_9

Elan Strong, 4, wears his father's shirt to keep warm. His father, Alan Strong, has a master's degree in divinity and works on the farm. Elan often visits the pumpkin patch and tries to push pumpkins that may weigh more than he does.

IMG_10

Rubber mice decorate the fence for Halloween.

IMG_11

Steve, from left, and his sister, Lisa Grief, take a few free moments to eat lunch. October is a hectic month on the farm, and the three siblings work long hours seven days a week. Lisa makes 28 sandwiches over the weekend for all the workers' lunches.

IMG_12

Jim lights bonfires with propane. The farm is often rented for parties and picnics in the evenings. Over weekends, the farm also offers a petting zoo that includes a camel.

IMG_13

Steve drives one of the hay ride tractors loaded with kindergartners. The Wurth siblings started offering farm tours to protect their livelihood, but they also care about teaching "our future voters" about where food comes from. In October, Lisa focuses on how pumpkins grow.