A Pumpkin Patch Experience

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 10, 2007
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In the pumpkin patch with children and teachers from Hawaii Kai Church Early Learning Center are Aloun Farms' Terry Phillips (back row, third from right) and volunteers from Campbell High School
In the pumpkin patch with children and teachers from Hawaii Kai Church Early Learning Center are Aloun Farms’ Terry Phillips (back row, third from right) and volunteers from Campbell High School

Here’s a recipe for a feel-good family moment - take a drive over to the old Farrington Highway at the end of this month, go for a hayride and then pick your own pumpkin. Aloun Farms has opened its enormous pumpkin patch for the past four years - an idea that came to owner Alec Sou as he was thinking about ways to educate children about agriculture.

“It all began with education, and it’s still about that,” says Sou, who works closely with a number of high schools and with Future Farmers of America.

Terry Phillips, who’s responsible for marketing for the farm, agrees that while the pumpkin patch is fun, the main mission is education.

“A lot of children simply don’t realize where food comes from,” she says as we stand in the heat of the Ewa plains surrounded by nothing but big sky and thousands of acres of vegetables. “They don’t associate growing things with food, and for many of them, this is their first trip to a farm.

“Just the experience of picking a pumpkin in this beautiful place,” she adds, “can be an amazing experience for children.”

And while October is easily the most hectic month on the calendar at Aloun Farms, it’s also one of the most important.

“This is a fun month,” says Phillips, “and a fun way to connect with the community. But ultimately we want people to think about sustainability.”

Sou agrees. “Starting children young is good - they have a better appreciation for healthy foods, for eating well, and sometimes it’s the kids who start to teach the parents.”

But whether you bring your family for the learning experience or for the sheer joy of picking a pumpkin and going on a hayride, do make the trip if you can. The few days at the end of October when Aloun Farms opens its gates to all is a truly rewarding experience. I went out there last week with the children of Hawaii Kai Church Early Learning Center, and loved every minute of hearing a group of 4-year-olds expertly interview farm volunteers from Campbell High School. “How do pumpkins grow?” they asked. “Why are they orange, do the white ones glow in the dark, what do they taste like, how big are they?”

A couple hundred children picked pumpkins at the first event in 2002 - this year Phillips and her team have already reserved tours for more than 20,000 local schoolkids and their teachers.

“It’s an experience that everybody loves,” she says, sweeping her arm across the 123 acres dotted with giant orange and white gourds and tiny bodies struggling to carry pumpkins as big as themselves. “Just look at the joy on their faces.”

Aloun Farms’seasonal produce includes melons, bananas, zucchini, pak choy and broccoli - but it’s the pumpkin patch that has opened the gates to learning.

“We want to connect with the community,” says Sou, “and we want everyone to have a better appreciation of agriculture and local farmers.”

And while the hayrides, games and activities are fun, I can pretty much guarantee that what you take home from a visit to the pumpkin patch will be more than something to carve for Halloween.

Happy eating!

The patch is open to the public Oct. 20, 21, 27 and 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information and to book educational tours, call 677-9516 or go to www.alounfarms.com

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