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Hey, pumpkin!

Kids and adults received hay rides Tuesday evening at the Larry Richter residence on the southwest edge of Wadena. The Richters sell pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and provide entertainment and treats for their guests. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal1 / 4
Larry Richter used a John Deere 750 tractor to pull a hayrack full of kids and adults down the driveway of his property Tuesday evening. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal2 / 4
Maria Chandler and her family rode the hay rack Tuesday evening. Maria held Aliza while flanked by Kieza and Cassidy, left, and Franchesca, right. Sister Etta was also along on the ride. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal 3 / 4
Pumpkins of all kinds could be found at the Richter residence Tuesday evening. Two of the newcomers included eight-month-old Isaiah Johnson, foreground, and 17-month-old Clara Morlock. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal4 / 4

If Ralph Waldo Emerson would have been able to visit Larry and Ruth Richter's place his famous poem "The Rhodora" might have gone "If eyes were made for seeing then pumpkins are their own excuse for being."

The pumpkin-rich Richters started out 32 years ago with the bright orange fruit when their four-year-old wanted to plant some pumpkins at their farm on the southwest border of Wadena.

They were not well-acquainted with pumpkins at that time, but when the seeds began to sprout and the vines began to run wild, they began to take notice. Pumpkin patches can be a lot like 400-pound gorillas - they do exactly what they want.

As their relationship with pumpkins grew that first year the Richters found themselves with a challenge - what do you do with 180 pumpkins? Their solution? Sell them.

They cut deals with the Red Owl in Wadena and with Larry's Supermarket to take 100 pumpkins off their hands. They kept the rest. As time went by, people driving past their place saw these pumpkins and stopped in to ask about them. What was once 180 pumpkins is now a lot more.

Richter's Pumpkin Patch had been born.

"We try to sell 500 to 1,000 in the fall," Ruth said.

There are pumpkins of all sizes and different colors for sale. There are gourds and Indian corn for sale. There are games, with a new one being the "pumpkin launcher."

Depending on the weather, the Richter Pumpkin Patch is open for about six weeks starting in mid-September. Their visitors are all ages, and a parking spot has been needed to handle all the traffic.

The Richters' four children grew up hoeing the pumpkin patch, and in return their parents let them split up the money they made by selling them. Ma and Pa Richter wisely made their offspring save some of their loot, but they also allowed them spend some. One of Richter kids bought a car and another paid their college tuition costs.

The word about the pumpkin patch spread as quickly as the vines. Schools began calling and arranging visits for their students. Ruth got herself a bunch of pumpkin recipes and started baking treats - cookies, doughnuts, cakes, brownies - and as their guests gobbled, the pumpkin patch starting growing in people's hearts.

Ruth was in the front yard of their place last week when a woman with kids came up and excitedly told her "I was here when I was a little girl."

That has become a familiar refrain, and the Richters like it a lot.

Right around 20 years ago the Richters had another brainstorm. Ruth had gone on some hayrides when she was a kid and thought it might be fun to offer them. For the price of a pumpkin their visitors can get a place to sit on a small hayrack which Larry pulls around their property behind a tractor. The "hay" is actually bales of straw, but you don't get it down the back of your neck.

"The object is to sell the pumpkins of course, but it's been fun," Ruth laughed.

A story many parents can relate to is being played out these days by Ruth and Larry. Their four kids have grown up and gone, but they have left some of their "stuff" with mom and dad - namely two acres of pumpkins. It has cut down on the number of hoes they need but not on the hoeing. However, they believe they have come up with a wonderful solution to the labor shortage - grandchildren.

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