Owners of Johnston Pumpkin Farm announced to family and friends recently that the traditional fall destination for many has closed after 18 years.
Cary and Wanda Johnston made the information public on the farm’s Facebook page on Aug. 3. The post that announced the couple’s intention to close the farm received 73 comments that expressed regret, thanks, or contained a memory made at the farm.
Wanda Johnston said she knows the farm has become an important family tradition for locals and residents of Pope and Pulaski counties.
One commenter wrote that she looked forward each year to her annual trip from Missouri to visit the farm.
But the Johnstons are "ready to do new things," Johnston said.
"It’s so many different factors. The weather has contributed. It has been 18 years, and my family has changed. We’re ready to do new things, and I’m ready to experience fall with my own family," she said. "We’ve had a long run."
Pumpkins, typically planted in June at Johnston Pumpkin Farm, were not planted this year due to the drought.
"There was no rain here until this past week since April 18, and I don’t believe there would have been a chance for the crop," she said. "If we thought we could run with it we may have tried to plant late, but as the summer progressed and there wasn’t a chance of rain, that became a factor."
She emphasized that the bad season is not the only reason for the farm’s closing.
"My family has done this for a long time and we’re ready to try new things and go other places. I don’t know what that is yet, but we’ll find out," Johnston said.
The 10 acre farm is located off of Arkavalley Road in Springhill.
Since 1995, the farm has been open to visitors from the last Saturday in September until Oct. 31 each year.
Along with selecting the right pumpkin out of about 200,000 available pounds of the fruit, visitors often used the trip as a photo opportunity. The popular "How Tall This Fall" measuring stick appears in numerous families’ photo albums.
Area schools have used the Johnston Pumpkin Farm as a learning tool, and field trips were scheduled for years in advance at the farm.
Johnston said the popular features at the farm were the kids’ play area, the rope maze, hay rides, and the pumpkin festival.
The pumpkin festival, held the second Saturday in October, included a pumpkin pie baking contest, musicians and carnival games.
"I still have groups to call who were scheduled to come out. I just had to call a group and tell them we had decided to close," Johnston said Tuesday.
Letters will go out to area schools when classes begin again for the year to let teachers know to make other arrangements, she said, adding that there are other local farms to visit.
Johnston said that some families, such as the Harveys and extended segments of the Johnstons, have visited the farm consecutively for more than a decade.
"We want to let everyone know how much we appreciate them for coming out each year," she said. "We thank everyone for such great support."
A fan of the farm on Facebook, Teresa Scheuter, wrote, "…my Autumn will not be the same without Johnston’s Pumpkin Farm! I’ve taken my children almost every year for the past 16 years."
Another, Vicki Crockett, wrote, "You were part of many families’ traditions for several years, you will be missed."
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)