Papa's Pumpkin Patch near Weed to close following 2021 season
After 18 years of providing a quintessential fall activity for Siskiyou County families, Dave and Debbie Burson are closing Papa's Pumpkin Patch near Weed after this season.
"It has come to our attention that we're old," joked Dave. "We both feel good about the decision to close, but it's difficult, because so many in the community are attached to (the patch)."
Dave, who owned Burson's Computers for 26 years in Mount Shasta, said he never set out to open a pumpkin patch. He started gardening as a hobby to "relax and disconnect" from technology.
"Our grandkids wanted pumpkins," Dave said, "so I started growing them. They started calling my garden 'Papa's Pumpkin Patch,' and the name stuck."
Their grandkids sold Dave's pumpkins outside the (now closed) gift store My Favorite Things, where Debbie worked at the time on Mt. Shasta Boulevard. They used the proceeds to buy a swing set.
The situation snowballed from there, and the Bursons – now both 65 years old – opened the patch to the public in 2003. Their endeavor provided "vacation play money" at the end of each season, Dave said. "We'd make three, four, five thousand dollars a year, but then it got larger and larger."
The Bursons eventually graduated to planting part of their neighbor's lot, too, and began selling more than just pumpkins: gifts, baked goods, winter squash, gourds, ornamental corn and mini pumpkins. They painted stand-in cutouts and a massive ruler for family photo opportunities. They provided picnic benches where people could enjoy a snack, with Mt. Shasta providing the perfect backdrop.
Today, the Bursons sell 50,000 pounds of pumpkins a season. Last year, they sold out on Oct. 18 and had to close early. Dave surmises that people were eager to get outside and do something normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year for their final season, the patch will be open from Oct. 1 to 31 and the Bursons are bringing back all the things they couldn't provide last year, including the beloved cutouts.
After the season is over, however, they're hanging up the gardening gloves.
"We came to an agreement at the same time," said Dave.
"And that doesn't happen too often," joked Debbie.
Two generations of visitors
Running a pumpkin patch is more involved than you'd imagine, Dave explained. The pumpkins are grown from seeds planted each year on June 1, but gourds and winter squash are started in a greenhouse on May 1. Seeds must be ordered months in advance. Hundreds of pumpkins must be harvested. And starting in November, the Bursons begin attending closeout sales at various retailers, searching for gift items to sell the following season.
Without pumpkins to worry about – and hundreds of mini pumpkin bread loaves to bake – the Bursons plan to do more traveling during the summer.
"We've enjoyed doing this. We love seeing the people and the kids," said Dave, noting that some of the children who came to the patch when they were young are now bringing kids of their own to visit.
For the past few years, the Bursons' daughter Dustie Toms has been operating the patch. Their grandchildren helped over the years, but now they'reall in college out of the area. And the Bursons are both retired from their other jobs – Debbie worked at Mountain Fitness in Mount Shasta after My Favorite Things closed in 2011.
"So, the time has come," Dave said. He plans to touch base with Siskiyou County's only other pumpkin patch, Hunter Orchard in Grenada, to offer his advice for the influx of pumpkin hunters they're sure to see next October.
"It's been a fun ride, but we're ready," said Dave.
If you go
Papa's Pumpkin Patch is located on Solus Drive off Highway 97 north of Weed. They're open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day in October.
You can find them on Facebook or call (530) 925-5778.
Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.