Pickerington lost a harvest-time legend Jan. 3 with the death of "Farmer Sam" Patterson.

Patterson was owner and operator of the popular Farmer Sam's Pumpkin Patch at 443 Hill Road South. He died after a prolonged illness at age 84.

Pickerington families flocked to Farmer Sam's stand, located across from Pickerington High School Central. It was there where Patterson sold pumpkins from his front yard for more than 40 years and other produce from his gardens for nearly 60 years.

The stand will continue, said longtime business partner Terry Dunlap Sr.

Patterson sold a wide variety of pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn and also offered straw for purchase year-round.

But it was the pumpkins -- in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors -- that made Farmer Sam a household name every fall when families engaged in their annual family trip to the pumpkin patch to load their vehicles with pumpkins.

Patterson's easygoing ability to banter about pumpkins and life in general simply drew folks to him, Dunlap said.

"Sam didn't know a stranger," Dunlap said. "He would talk to anybody about anything."

And when it came to pumpkins, Farmer Sam had two steadfast rules for his business that resonated with his customers.

"Sam would always say, 'Don't put a price on a pumpkin you wouldn't buy yourself;' and, 'If you wouldn't take it home, don't put it in the wagon,'" Dunlap said.

Patterson, who was retired from the city of Pickerington as streets and maintenance supervisor, sold "thousands" of pumpkins each year, Dunlap said.

As Patterson's health began to decline, the pumpkin patch was moved to vacant land just south of Patterson's house last fall; however, Farmer Sam still found time to keep on eye on things.

"We were business partners and best friends," Dunlap said.

"He retired from running the pumpkin patch a year ago, but I promised him I would keep it going.

"That's why we moved it next door. He came down whenever he wanted to. He'd drive his truck down and sit in the truck and then go back to the house," Dunlap said.

Patterson also was once employed at the Pickerington Creamery and was past president of the Pickerington Lions Club.

Dunlap said he and Patterson designed an innovative "no-till" pumpkin planter that was once featured in a farm-show magazine.

"Sam was really proud of that pumpkin planter. We still have it and still use it," Dunlap said.

Patterson was well-known to be take care of children when they came to visit his pumpkin patch.

"Sam always liked the little babies," Dunlap said.

"We kept the smallest pumpkins and he would give the new ones that came -- the 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds -- a little pumpkin."

Such generosity spanned generations. Those "little ones" that received the little pumpkins eventually would bring their own children to Farmer Sam's Pumpkin Patch. Patterson seemed to remember them all.

Dunlap said people came from far away to purchase pumpkins at reasonable prices.

"We had four or five ladies from Pittsburgh drive over this year."

"They said they couldn't get the variety, sizes and fair prices there so they came here to buy pumpkins," he said.

Dunlap said he made a promise to Patterson that he would carry on the tradition of Farmer Sam's Pumpkin Patch.

"We won't change the prices or the variety," Dunlap said. "We're going to continue on. He made me promise.

"There will be a couple of tables dedicated to Sam's pick, which will be the pumpkins he liked the most."