Education is our Mission October 14th, 2012
Here at TGPP, we are educators. It’s what we do, as much a passion for us as pumpkins!
Whether we are sharing our favorite cucurbit recipes at Squash Tasting on weekends, or teaching visitors the difference between an heirloom variety and a newer variety, we are always teaching. We want to connect people to the land, show them where their food comes from, and, overall, spread the love of pumpkins!
We have about 4,000 school children come our to the farm every year during pumpkin season. It is one of my favorite parts of the season, I wish we had the time and the staff to walk around with each group and show them how many wonderful lessons there are on the farm. We aren’t able to do that at this point, so we have worked really hard at coming up with activities for teachers to take back to the classroom with them. Some of our activities we have found online, and others we have created or adapted to be our own. We have even enlisted other staff memebers, many of whom are educators themselves (we have teachers, retired teachers, librarians, principals, and professors among our diverse staff) to help us create activities and resources for teachers and parents who want to take a little of The Great Pumpkin Patch home with them.
Be sure to check our Pinterest board for some wonderful activities and resources at http://pinterest.com/the200acres/. Here are two of our own original activities, check them out and please let us know what you are doing in your classroom so we can share that too!!
We are always looking for ways to do things different, a little outside the box. We have so many ideas and we are always trying to put our spin on things to make our place unique. Field trips are the same way; we want this to be the one place that teachers have to bring their students back year after year. And one that the kids are so excited about they have to bring their parents back. So be ready, because our minds are already thinking about what we can do next year to make field trips more educational, more fun and more us!
The Mysterious Life of Gourds September 20th, 2012
At dusk on an evening in late July, Kit and I went for a drive in one of the farm trucks to check on the pumpkins. As we drove out towards “the walnuts” (what our family calls the row of trees along the southern border of our fields), the field was alight with beautiful white flowers. To my untrained eye, they looked like pixies were dancing through our field.
Now, I’ve been spending evenings at the farm for 11 years, yet until this night, I had never been fortunate enough to see these beauties. Honestly, I had no idea that gourd flowers are delicate and white and come out at night. (The beautiful, rich yellow flowers of pumpkins and squash bloom during the day.)
Gourds are truly miraculous. They start out as these delicate white flowers, bear fruit in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes, dry out and are reborn as beautiful objects of art (i.e. like this funny dude made entirely from TGPP gourds by one of the gourd artists displaying their wares here on the weekends).
I’ll leave you with one last tidbit about these amazing plants — Kit tells me that no one even knows where gourds originated. They are found throughout the tropics, having floated across the world’s oceans.
Plant some gourds and experience it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!
~ Emily Condill
You might be wilting… July 7th, 2012
…but they’re not! Central Illinois is experiencing its fourth consecutive day of 100-degree-plus temperatures. The human population of the area has long faces and short tempers, but many of our pumpkins, squash and gourds are thriving, as can be seen in these photos of a young Campeche squash plant in one of our isolation plots yesterday.
Native to southern Mexico, Campeche belongs to the species Cucurbita mixta, for which this kind of weather is ideal (although a little bit of rain would still be nice). While most visitors to The Great Pumpkin Patch enjoy Campeche for its excellent decorative qualities (see below), in Mexico, Campeche is grown for its very large and very nutritious seeds.
Since Campeche is generally unavailable from commercial seed companies, The Homestead Seeds is trying to build up a large seed stock forthe future. So far, so good at the isolation plot.
~ Kit Condill
In the beginning there’s dirt… June 25th, 2012
Photo by Ann Mirek, Dillybar Photography
It’s always a great feeling to get the last seeds in the ground, though it is a short-lived victory because my mind quickly turns to the next project. One of which is to get ALL the transplants in the ground. Easier said than done, because I am trying to find the right home (or isolation plot) for each specific variety of seed. Isolation plots are the easiest way of proliferating a variety of vegetable, if you call tracking down people who trust me enough to let the mini pumpkin patches invade their spaces easy. Isolation plots don’t have to be in a garden, necessarily; they can be in a field or even a plot of lawn. These isolation plots have to be a half mile from any other variety of pumpkin, squash, or gourds within the same species, or they risk getting cross-pollinated or contaminated with “impure” pollen thereby creating a crossed or “impure” fruit, which is then unusable when it comes to seed saving.
We seed-save rare and unusual varieties that we feel are in danger of becoming extinct, or for which we simply can not locate and/or buy enough seed for TGPP’s purposes. I love the logistics of the process, it just takes a lot of work but is so worth it when an isolation plot is successful. Thank you all to our 25+ isolation growers.
On another note, somewhat related, I want to congratulate our niece on getting 2nd place at the Indiana State FFA competition. Her seed saving presentation was exceptional and we are all very proud of her.
~ Mac Condill
Country Living Fair- Columbus 2012 June 20th, 2012
2012 marks our sixth year attending this event. Lovers of Country Living Magazine will appreciate the enormous effort they make to bring their magazine to life at this fair. Mac will be speaking, the Homestead Bakery will be vending their delicious made-from-scratch baked goods, and we will be building the squash tower center piece.
To get tickets and more information, visit their website; http://www.countryliving.com/crafts/country-living-fairs