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Forty years after harvesting her first pumpkins, Bonnie Sanders is starting to say good-bye to the hundreds of local families who have made visiting the Sanders Pumpkin Farm an annual tradition.

This will be the last year that Dwight and Bonnie raise countless varieties of vegetables and flowers, and welcome classrooms of children to their farm. While Dwight will continue the farming, Bonnie says it's just time quit the pumpkin farming.

“I at peace with it. It's time,” Bonnie said on Wednesday as her young granddaughter, Chloe, stood beside her among a small patch of flowers. The retirement will mean that the Sanders will have more opportunities to visit their grandchildren in Utah. Chloe's parents, Jason and Angie, had made the all-night drive to Vinton to be part of Bonnie's last year. Their children joined the first-graders who toured the farm that day.

The beginning

A board near the barn which functions at the store area allows everyone who has helped on the farm in any way since1974 to sign their name.

“I married Dwight I 1973, and I noticed there was no place to buy pumpkins, but at Fareway, from a crate,” Bonnie recalls. “That's not really that fun.”

So, the very next year, she began growing her own pumpkins.

A few years, later a group of children from Happy Time came to see the pumpkins. Word quickly spread; soon Bonnie was welcoming hundreds of children to the farm each year, and school teachers were planning annual field trips.

Along the way, the Sanders added other things: Indian corn. Animals including pot-bellied pigs, turkeys and chickens, and lately Big Bird, the ostrich, and a few emus. Those animals are now an important part of the tours.

Every year, Bonnie grows some new kind of vegetables. With the popularity of “heirloom” seeds, it's now quite easy to make annual additions, she said.

The gift

As a thank you to Bonnie, the Tilford students made her a special painting, using their fingerprints to create a variety of “leaves” on a tree. They presented it to her as the tour begin. A message below the tree reads, “Thank you for helping us grow.”

“Thank you,” Bonnie told the children, as Dwight stood nearby with his camera, “You left me speechless and that does not happen very often.”

The tour continued, with Bonnie using a megaphone as she told the children about the farm and the animals. Each child left with an ear of Indian corn as well as a pumpkin.

The legacy will continue

Bonnie announced early in 2013 that 2014 would be the Sanders Pumpkin Farm's last year. She made the announcement early because she hoped that someone else would want to continue the tradition she began.

That someone is Debra Kacena, who along with her husband, Kevin, run a Christmas tree farm north of Vinton, along Highway 150.

“I can't wait to be officially crowned 'The Pumpkin Lady,'” said Deb. “We are so excited to take it over.”

While the Kacenas have planned for years to add pumpkins and more to their tree farm, they did not want to compete with Bonnie.

“As long as the Sanders farm was around who would come to our place? Besides, who would ever want to compete with such greatness as Sander's Pumpkin Farm?” said Deb. “It will be fun to finally grow in the plots meant to be for pumpkins.”

And, she add, “Finally, people will quit asking what the big blank weedy areas are for.”

Bonnie is thrilled to have the Kacenas carrying on her tradition. Deb has spent much time at the Sanders farm this year, learning how Bonnie has done things. Bonnie says she will continue to work with the Kacenas over the winter and into next year, “as much or as little as they want.”

Joanna Kalina has also helped the Sanders, working in the art shop painting a variety of pumpkins and other vegetable projects. Ellen Olson has also been helping Bonnie with the tours for 15 years or so.

The farm is located on 63rd Street south of Vinton, about one mile east of Highway 218.

See photos of the 1st-grade tour HERE.

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Comments (3)

Wishing the "Pumpkin Couple" the very best exciting, relaxing retirement. Thank you so much for providing your faithful service and wonderful produce to our county. Welcome Kacena's! How exciting the tradition continues!!
By: Carol A Geater on October 16th 1:14pm
Dwight & Bonnie, thanks for the many years you have shared such a wonderful variety of veggies and the many happy smiles you have given everyone with your enthusiastic smiles and gracious hosting at your farm. Happy retirement but we'll believe that when it happens!! Dale and Karen Hagen
By: Dale & Karen Hagen on October 16th 5:28pm
I will miss all the wonderful squash.
By: Jim Hilliard on October 17th 2:05pm

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