Voss Pumpkin Patch draws customers keeping in touch with fall tradition

This year, they opened the pumpkin patch Sept. 22, and will continue to sell pumpkins, squash and gourds to customers through Halloween, said Becky Cote. “Or, for as long as we have pumpkins.”

Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Every year when autumn rolls around, Cote — one of five children of Luke and the late Joyce Lutovsky — takes a couple of weeks off from her full-time job in Fargo to lead the project that’s been going on for eight years.

“Last year, we didn’t even have frost,” she said. “This year we’ve had to battle snow.”

But the family has taken extra steps to protect the pumpkins from frost, even as they continue to take them out of the field.

“We tell people they’re very fresh,” Cote said.

The work of many “siblings, spouses, nieces and nephews” brings the pumpkin patch to fruition, she said. “We plant the seeds, weed and harvest by hand.”

They begin harvesting pumpkins in mid-September on five acres of land donated by Cote’s sister and brother-in-law, Dawn and John Miller Jr., of Minto, N.D.

Cote’s brother, Darren Lutovsky, of Port Orchard, Wash., returns every fall for a couple weeks to pitch in and sister-in-law, Peggy Lutovsky, Scott Lutovsky’s wife, also “is a big help,” Cote said.

They sell a variety of pumpkins, including “Jarrahdales,” a blue-green variety from Australia, Cote said. “They’ve become popular in the last few years.”

Large flat “Cinderellas” and “warty” pumpkins and “Turk’s Turbans” squash are also good-sellers.

“The largest (pumpkin) we ever had was 103 pounds,” said Scott Lutovsky.

Too many pumpkins

Cote decided to start the Voss Pumpkin Patch in 2011, picking up the reins from a neighbor and relative, Ray Lutovsky, who had been growing pumpkins for family and friends, as a hobby. There were so many pumpkins, she decided to offer them to the public so they wouldn’t go to waste, she said.

A sign at the patch lists “suggested prices,” ranging from 50 cents to $5. If unattended, customers are “on their honor” to leave payment in a locked box, Cote said.

The Lutovsky family uses the proceeds from the sale of pumpkins to fund worthy causes in the area, which, in the past, included improvements to a baseball field in Minto.

They will do the same this year, but haven’t determined yet which causes to support.

Repeat customers

Every fall, customers from Park River, Grafton and Minto, N.D., flock to the pumpkin patch, Scott Lutovsky said. “Quite a few are repeat customers.”

“A guy from Edmore (N.D.) comes every year,” Cote said. “And there’s a guy from Fargo who comes and gets pumpkins to decorate his home on (historic) Eighth Street there.”

On Saturday, Lindsay Jelinek, of Pisek, N.D., and Jill Hell, Park River, brought their children and a few nieces to pick pumpkins.

“We’ve come every year for the past five years,” Jelinek said. “The kids like to carve pumpkins, so they each get one big one to carve and some pumpkins to decorate with.”

Every year, Cote said she and her siblings question whether they’ll offer the pumpkin patch again, because “we’re getting older” and it requires a lot of physical labor, she said.

“And then we hear someone say, ‘Oh, we’re so glad you’re doing this.’ “

So the tradition continues.

“I love fall. I love where I grew up,” said Cote, looking around the yard filled with stacks of pumpkins. “I love coming home. This recharges my batteries.”

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