The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 18, 2013

School break sends kids on pumpkin hunt (video)

Growers cite bumper pumpkins

MANKATO — A sunny, 50-degree day makes for a good little fall Friday.

Add in the fact that many K-12 kids had the day off while teachers attended the annual two-day Education Minnesota Conference (formerly referred to as MEA Weekend), and well, that's icing on the cake.

With Halloween less than two weeks away, many area families took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and headed outdoors to pick out the perfect pumpkins to carve this weekend.

Nanny Shanna Roloff walked with four kids she was watching down Pohl Road to The Pumpkin Barn, a small acreage where Dave and Katy Wortel live and farm. It didn't take long for the group to pick out a 10-pounder, which Roloff had the sole pleasure of lugging back to the kids' home a few blocks away.

The only thing the kids had to carry were the baby gourds that the Wortels give out as trick-or-treat gifts to all the children who visit their farm.

“I'll trade you,” Roloff said to one of the kids holding a gourd. “You can carry mine, and I'll carry yours.”

Their pumpkin was perfectly round, ripe and ready for carving — one of the last of the busy season at The Pumpkin Barn.

“We're getting down to the nitty gritty,” said Katy Wortel, a former Blue Earth County commissioner. “This has been one of our best years.”

The Wortels have lived on their 12-acre farm on Pohl Road for 35 years and have sold pumpkins for about 25 years. The crop has proven to be quite hardy, she said. The couple sells about 1,000 pumpkins per year.

“The deer didn't like running through the pumpkins,” Katy said.

MEA Weekend is always a busy time on the farm, Katy said, as she made sure several new visitors left with either a free gourd or a coloring book about a pumpkin patch.

“See you, Kate,” said Harry Stevenson, who has been a Pumpkin Barn regular with his grandkids.

“See you next year,” she said.

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