Ellen Dalton and her husband, Darrell, own and operate Pumpkin Hollow in Piggot, Arkansas.
Visitors to Pumpkin Hollow can find a variety of fun activities, from picking pumpkins and playing in the Friendly Forest, to visiting Misery Manor and playing Zombie Paintball.
In the beginning…
It all started with a big field of pumpkins in 1991. Ellen and Darrell grew a crop and sold it to a pumpkin patch near St. Louis. They had such a great time that they decided to stop selling their pumpkins wholesale and instead start their own, similar business in northeast Arkansas.
They planted the pumpkins, decorated a dairy barn on their property, gathered a crew, and opened for business.
Today, Pumpkin Hollow is open everyday beginning in mid-September and lasting through October 31. On Friday and Saturday nights, they stay open late for haunted attractions, as well as offer attractions for those not interested in the scary stuff.
Never a dull moment
Activities abound at Pumpkin Hollow. The traditional experience remains—choosing and picking pumpkins, hayrides and the petting zoo. Perhaps unexpected are the haunted attractions, putt-putt course, corn maze, zip line and Pumpkin Hollow store.
There is also a barn filled with children's activities, a huge slide and the forest play areas. Not to mention, the gourd trellis, pedal tractors, pig races, pond slide, pony rides, Bubba’s Butcher Barn, Forest of Fright and Flashlight Maze.
Education by way of play
When Ellen and Darrell started their business, they were thinking of ways to help folks in their area have a good time.
However, they realized when they opened how many kids in their area had never been on a farm, didn’t know how pumpkins grew and had never touched or fed a farm animal before, despite the fact that they are in rural Arkansas.
“We just assumed that, living in such a rural area, kids know this stuff,” Ellen said. “Well, in reality, no, they don't. What's really satisfying to me is that those kids who came on those first school field trips are now coming back and bringing their own kids.”
Ellen laughs when asked what the team does during the “off-season,” because it really doesn’t exist at Pumpkin Hollow. It is true that their busiest time of year, September-October, requires teams of 30 employees during the day and up to 120 in the evening, to ensure Pumpkin Hollow functions smoothly. However, full-time employees work year-round as well. In fact, two of those year-round employees work focus solely on haunted attractions!
In December, Ellen’s team is busy with gourd harvest and filling Pumpkin Hollow’s gourd orders that they ship around the world. And in the spring, the team travels to gourd shows to learn and network with their peers. In what little spare time they have, the Daltons also run a cattle operation.
Farm Credit, a trusted partner
Ellen and Darrell have been Farm Credit borrowers for nearly a decade. With the help of Farm Credit Midsouth, they’ve finished several capital improvement projects, including a new barn and a new retail store. They’ve also built a new putt-putt course, as well as other projects around the property to provide a fun experience for visitors with a diversity of interests and comfort levels when it comes to scary attractions.
On a day-to-day management level, Ellen and Darrell also have an operating loan from Farm Credit Midsouth to help with the more routine needs of running their business.
“We have always found the people at Farm Credit to be really helpful, personable and friendly,” Ellen said. “We've had a great experience with everyone there.”
A version of this story first appeared on the Farm Credit Midsouth blog.