The 'Pumpkin Man'
Patterson's produce a fall tradition in Pickerington
Every fall without fail you can find Sam Patterson, also know as "the Pumpkin Man," conducting brisk business from his front yard on Hill Road South, directly across from the entrance to Pickerington Central High School.
Just like the school, Sam's Pumpkin patch is considered by many to be another local institution, having supplied countless Pickerington-area families with their Halloween pumpkins for well over 30 years.
Patterson, approaching 79 years of age, shows no signs of slowing down. As a matter of fact, he'll tell you he's just getting started.
"I've been operating for 30 years and every year it keeps getting bigger and bigger, but with my age I have to hire extra help," he said.
"I used to do it mostly myself.
"A lot of people keep saying 'you're getting old, how long you going to be here.'
"I may be slowing down in my age, but I still love my pumpkins."
Patterson said he sells in the neighborhood of 2,000 pumpkins each season, which officially starts Sept. 22.
He farms about 10 acres on two plots on Basil Western Road. He said the key to growing good, quality pumpkins lies in the ground.
"It's the good sweet ground, I'm not much for sour ground," Patterson said.
"And it don't take that much rain. This year has been dry, but I've got as good a crop this year as I've ever had.
"You also have to have good (drainage), if you don't drain good you're not going to do good," Patterson said.
He said for the past four years he's used a pumpkin planter, essentially a re-designed corn planter, to plant his pumpkins.
"There is no soil wash away, so you end up with pumpkins that are clean."
Patterson prices his pumpkins by size, with roman numerals on the tops of the pumpkins to indicate price.
"Usually about 90 percent of the people know my pricing system. They get what they want and they know what they're paying," said Patterson, who added prices range from three for a dollar up to$20 for the largest pumpkins.
He said he has over twenty-five varieties of pumpkins on his patch and is particularly proud of his white pumpkins.
"People really like the white pumpkins, they're really unusual and stand out from the orange ones."
He said the dark orange pumpkins with "the dark, heavy-duty handle" are the most durable, while his sugar pie pumpkins make a good pie.
"The texture on the inside is a lot finer," as opposed to the stringier texture he said can be found in regular pumpkins.
Patterson said all of his pumpkins should stand the test of time.
"I feel strong they'll keep for Halloween without any problems at all."
Patterson's patch has been a fall pilgrimage for area families for years, and he said he is now seeing children of the children that visited decades ago.
"Years ago, if a young couple came in with a little baby, that baby got a little pumpkin on its chest, now I'm putting that little pumpkin on their baby's chest," he said.
With nine living children, 19 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren, to say that Patterson is a family man is perhaps an understatement.
He said he truly finds joy in seeing families bond over the fall ritual of picking out Halloween pumpkins.
"Little kids love to get their pumpkins," Patterson said.
"I look forward to seeing the little kids' faces when they get out of the car and see all those pumpkins.
"The first one they see they want it, then they don't know which ones they want. That's what it's all about."
Sam's Pumpkin Patch at 443 Hill Road South in Pickerington is open Sept. 22 until Halloween from daylight to dark.