Lyle Boeck has gone hunting for pumpkins at Carver Farms pumpkin patch for 20 years. And from age 50 to 70, Boeck said, he’s changed more than the farms have.
Carver Farms is etched in his heart now, after years of watching his growing grandkids pick out their favorite pumpkins before the family’s big annual carving event.
“You’ve got to establish the memories,” Boeck said, while harvesting sunflowers and corn with his 8-year-old grandson. “We don’t always tell them the right things, but at least we give them some good memories when we’re gone.”
Scott Carver has about 43 years of memories on the land. His parents, Marv and Jo Carver, took a huge leap in 1977 to buy a 22-acre plot, Carver said.
“They sold everything they owned,” Carver said. “They had a really nice house and a barn. They left everything and started over and put a single-wide trailer on the property.”
Since then, Carver Farms has grown to about 120 acres, including 42 acres of a Christmas tree farm that Scott and his wife Tamryn spearheaded. They started planting trees in 2002 on a 3-acre plot and were able to sell their first batch in 2009. Now the tree farm has expanded and the family is preparing for its 11th season selling the trees, starting Nov. 27.
The pumpkin patch sold out this year just in time for the frost predicted this week, which combined with snow, will knock down the corn maze too, Carver said.
Since Gov. Jay Inslee released guidelines to allow for socially distanced agritourism in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carvers piloted a new system for selling strawberries this summer and followed that model for their pumpkin patch. Once people harvested the pumpkins of their choosing, they drove up to get them weighed to avoid creating crowded lines, Carver said.
Carver said watching the “hunter and gatherers,” as he calls guests, picking out pumpkins gave him hope the farm could allow families to get a taste of something normal during the pandemic.
As farmers markets have blown up, the Carvers have focused less on the multitude of vegetables they used to grow and more on the U-Pick experience families love.
Kelly Hemmert-Fillmore, of Post Falls, went to the pumpkin patch for the first time 33 years ago with her then-boyfriend. She’s gone every year since, starting the tradition with her kids that continued when she met her husband, a mortician.
She’s a big fan of Halloween. The couple were married on Oct. 31 in a funeral home – they drew the line at dressing up in costumes – and now they deck out their front lawn with animatronic decorations, their hearse and real coffins. Carver is a yearly staple in her celebration .
“I don’t like getting a pumpkin from the store,” Hemmert-Fillmore said. “It’s a family-run business, so you see the same people each year. They might not remember your name, but you remember each other.”
Boeck said if he hadn’t brought his kids to the farm, he might have gone for a couple of years. But now, it’s important to him. After retiring from police work, he said there was a hole in his life.
“Grandkids are a bonus I did not see coming,” Boeck said. “That first kid comes along and they look at you and you hold them and it’s like, whoa – talk about taking your breath away. And then the next one comes, and each one is different and unique.”
Even when his grandkids are grown, he said he can “guarantee” he and his wife will come to Carver Farms, buy some kettle corn, walk around and watch the families get to their pumpkin hunt.
“For my days that are left,” he said, “whether there’s grandkids or not, I will walk the pumpkin patch at Carver’s.”
Carver said it’s that loyal community support that makes it so worth it, even when a project like the Christmas tree farm required seven years of work before a single tree sold.
He said his parents, now in their 80s, “took on a tremendous amount of land and debt, but they managed to keep on plugging away.”
“In spite of our difficulties right now, we’re going to make it through,” Carver said. “Thank you to the Spokane and North Idaho community for supporting us for 42 years.”
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