Pumpkin Patch Proves Popular For Vegetable Farmer

Rene Schmit, Blanchard, Tobie M.  |  10/24/2007 1:01:22 AM

A student from St. Christopher Elementary School in Metairie hauls a pumpkin to the wagon.

Three-year-old Imani Wilson from St. Joan of Arc Elementary School in LaPlace dries her pumpkin after its quick bath.

Students from Hazel Park/Hida Knoff Elementary School in River Ridge give their fresh-picked pumpkins a wash before taking them home. The group was one of hundreds that visit Perilloux’s Pumpkin Patch in October. (Click on photo to download larger image.) (Photo by Tobie Blanchard)

News Release Distributed 10/23/07

Every October, around 10,000 children wander through Perilloux’s Pumpkin Patch in St. Charles Parish in search of the perfect pumpkin. The operation started by accident 24 years ago with one Girl Scout troop and a small wagon.

The next year, five school groups visited the farm, and from there it grew. Today, school children and groups from across Southeast Louisiana board large trailers and make their way through Timmy Perilloux’s farm to the pumpkin patch.

The success of this business has surprised him.

“I’m only trying to keep up with the growth of it. I’d like to hold the growth as it is right now – no larger,” he said. “I didn’t build it up. I’m giving credit to the school teachers, the parents and mainly the children.”

On a mild October morning, around a dozen school groups are visiting the farm. The groups are shuttled past Perilloux’s vegetable gardens to the pumpkins. Each child is allowed to pick out a pumpkin.

Nina James was there with her son Korrin, a pre-K student at Hazel Park/Hilda Knoff School in River Ridge.

“He wants to take it home and draw a face on it,” she said. “He doesn’t want to carve it.”

Another youngster felt a strong attachment to his pumpkin.

“It’s going to sleep with me tonight,” said Eric Offray, a student at Holy Rosary Academy in New Orleans.

Schools such as St. Christopher Elementary School in Metairie use the field trip as a learning tool.

“We talk about pumpkins and Halloween during the week,” Pre-K teacher Kristen Matherne said. “We’ll bring a pumpkin back to the classroom and measure and weigh it.”

Perilloux has 15 acres of pumpkins. He grows the light-colored Creole, or cow pumpkins, and purchases traditional pumpkins mainly from New Mexico.

He has worked with the LSU AgCenter in attempts to grow traditional pumpkins.

“They brought, several times, 20 varieties of orange pumpkin seeds. We planted them,” Perilloux said. “Whatever chemical they told me to buy, I bought to try and stop the belly rot on the pumpkins.”

Too much moisture makes it difficult to grow traditional pumpkins. The Creole pumpkins have been reliable for nearly 200 years. They got the name cow pumpkins from early farmers in Louisiana.

“The farmers found the cows liked to eat the pumpkins, so the farmers grew them as a winter staple for the cows,” said Rene Schmit, an LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Charles Parish.

Youngsters visiting the pumpkin patch can take away more than just a pumpkin. Many are seeing a working farm for the first time.

“That’s a lot of influence on these kids in terms of introducing them to agriculture whether it’s pumpkins or the vegetables,” Schmit said. “It gives the kids an opportunity to see an actual farming operation and to expose them to agriculture production.”

After picking a pumpkin, the groups load them in a wagon to take back to the washing shed. There, the pumpkins receive a quick bath and are ready for their new homes.

It is obvious by the sounds and smiles that the groups enjoy their fall outing.

“It’s great to be at the pumpkin patch, because I love picking big pumpkins,” Adam Bourgeois, a pre-K student at St. Christopher said.

Perilloux’s Pumpkin Patch in Montz, La., is open through October, and the farm has an area for picnicking.
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Contact: Rene Schmit at (985) 785-4473, or rschmidt@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Tobie Blanchard at (225) 578-5649, or tblanchard@agcenter.lsu.edu

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