Family-built Harvest Moon blooms into a family-friendly enterprise

Terry Wallerstedt and her family operate Harvest Moon Pumpkin Patch north of Oakland.

They had to do something with the pumpkins.

What started as an alternative to a roadside stand has developed into one of the county’s busiest entertainment and event venues—Harvest Moon Pumpkin Patch.

Built on their farm north of Oakland along Highway 77, Mark and Terry Wallerstedt have seen the business grow from being open one autumn weekend to a full-time thing.

“Our three youngest wanted to sell pumpkins by the side of the road,” Terry said last week during a break in preparing for a busy week of activities. “People told us we should have some kind of fall event, and its turned into this.”

That fall event was 13 years ago. Now the pumpkin patch is open six or seven weeks during the fall, depending on the weather. A barn on the place has been turned into a social hall and is available by appointment during the summer.

“After the first time I said never again,” she said. “My husband said we’d spent so much money on it, maybe we should try it another year and it’s just grown from there.”

With her broad smile, Terry admits she resisted every bit of it.

“I almost quit after year-three,” she said. “I said I didn’t want to do school groups and now we have one almost every week. I said no to weddings—we had 17 this summer.

Although you can buy a pumpkin or two for your home decor, or a jack-o-lantern, the place is a lot more than pumpkins.

From zip lines to a corn maze, and go-karts to their newly expanded corn pit, their is something to attract patrons of all ages. Wallerstedt said their are 17 different stations on the place and there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite.

“There is so much to do and everybody likes something different,” she said. “Pumpkin patches share ideas and a some of our venues are unique to us.”

For sure it takes a lot of help to keep a place like that company-ready for seven straight weeks.

Wallerstedt said she has 66 part-time workers helping her. Most of them are young people, many of them who are getting their first look at a real job.

Obviously, some of it is farm-type work.

“Like putting in a fence post, a lot of this is stuff rural kids grow up learning, but there aren’t a lot of rural kids anymore,” she said.

Although its work, she said they try to create a fun atmosphere. It seems to be working.

“A lot of adults come back who have worked for us and almost every teen comes back every year,” she said. “It’s been a joy to watch.”

From its humble beginnings, the pumpkin patch might now host 1,000 people on a busy day with guests coming from metro Omaha as well as nearby states.

“People just want a fun, safe place to take their kids,” she said. “And there’s nothing better than spending a day in the country.”

Harvest Moon is open during its fall season from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 to 6 on Friday and noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

More information about Harvest Moon Pumpkin Patch is available at its Web site: harvestmoonoakland.com; or by phone at 402-380-1730.

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