Hebron's Pigeon Roost Farm marks 40 years for Jutte family

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Terry Arter of Columbus watches as his son Xavier Arter, 3, pretends to drive a tractor during a trip to Pigeon Roost Farm in Hebron on Oct. 3.

On an 80-acre spread just a short drive east from Columbus lies a family farm that attracts thousands of visitors every fall with an outdoor adventure full of activities.

Pigeon Roost Farm, 4413 National Road SW in Hebron, is celebrating 40 years of fall family fun.

Gahanna resident Amy Jutte, 48, grew up on the farm, where in the early years, a self-serve produce stand was set up to help pay for her college education and that of her brother, Douglas, 52, a pediatrician, and sister, Pam, 49, a marine biologist.

“I went off to Chicago for college and graduate school at Northwestern (University),” she said. “I moved out to California for many years and worked at Silicon Valley and worked at Yahoo. But I always had this in the back of my head and knew the farm is my life and my love.”

Amy Jutte, a Gahanna resident and manager of Pigeon Roost Farm, grabs a pumpkin off a shelf at the Hebron farm.

She moved back to Ohio to help her parents, Ralph and Janice Jutte, both 76, run the farm, which the Juttes purchased in 1979 and opened the next year.

This is Amy Jutte’s 12th year working at the farm, where visitors come by the thousands every harvest season to pick the perfect pumpkin, navigate a corn maze or have fun at the Great Pumpkin Fun Center.

Among the activities are paintball, Skee-Ball, a children's Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course, football and softball throws, a tree fort with a slide and a climbing wall, a Creepy Teepee Tunnel & Conestoga Corn Box and giant gerbil wheels.

Ralph Jutte said all the activities evolved over time. 

“Every year we added something,” he said.

As he had done for his children, Ralph Jutte said, his father helped him finance his education by selling produce.

“He set my brother and I up growing melons,” he said. “My brother and I split the earnings. We paid our way through college that way.”

Jutte, a native of Fort Recovery in Mercer County, earned a master’s degree in engineering from Ohio State University.

He said he took early retirement from his job at Owens Corning after 30-plus years to get more involved with the farm.

“I’m trying to turn it over to Amy and a few young fellas who work for me,” he said. 

Amy Jutte said she hopes her daughters, Keira, 7, and Sydney, 5, eventually want to continue the family tradition. 

“My kids love coming out and helping Papa,” she said. “I grew up here, and the way it has grown over the years is just tremendous.”

Ralph Jutte said he employed about 25 people last season.

“We have kids who used to work for us who bring their kids back now,” he said.

In previous years, Jutte said, he planted 15 acres of pumpkins and 5 acres of Indian corn, along with other produce. “We’d have 25 acres of crops we’d sell at the market place,” he said.

This year, however, the farm purchased its pumpkins because of the uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“We expanded our corn maze,” Jutte said. “It’s 5 to 6 acres this year to spread people out more. It’s always 3 acres.”

Skyler Farley of Clintonville and his daughter Elleia Farley, 3, try to decide which pumpkin they want at Pigeon Roost Farm in Hebron.

Janice Jutte said the family doesn’t need much land for crops that also included soybeans.

She said the farm has welcomed four professional pumpkin carvers who have appeared on the Food Network’s Halloween Wars series. 

Westerville resident David Smith, who regularly carves at the farm, has been a contestant on the latest season of "Outrageous Pumpkins."

“He does amazing work and is such a great guy,” Janice Jutte said. “It’s fun to take just a pumpkin and watch it as it comes to life.”

Decorated pumpkins are among the many items available for purchase at Pigeon Roost Farm in Hebron.

Jordan and Katelyn Smith of Gahanna brought their daughter Emersyn, 2, to the farm for the first time Oct. 3.

“It’s really big,” Jordan Smith said. “There are lots of activities for the kids and families. It’s a good time.”

“It’s huge, and there’s tons to do,” Katelyn Smith said.

Gahanna residents Chad and Katrina Wilder also recently checked out the farm with their son Braxton, 6.

“I like the paintball shooting,” Braxton said.

Katrina Wilder said she is “super impressed” with the farm.

“We’ve been here a couple hours,” she said. “I like the variety of activities. I think it’s great.”

Hannah Daniels of Pataskala said she loves the farm.

“I have been coming since I was a kid,” she said. “I have lots of memories here. Every year there seems to be something new. They (the family) are dedicated to the farm.”

Pigeon Roost is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 31.

For more information, go to pigeonroostfarm.com.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla