Around this time of each year, BoBrook Farms in Roland transforms into a playground that includes a pumpkin patch with dozens of different types of pumpkins, a corn pit, a sunflower field in full bloom, piglet races, a hay pyramid with slides and tunnels and opportunities to visit with farm animals. There are also hayrides in a wagon driven by a tractor to get a tour of the farm. 

 

Most of the visitors are families with children, or kids and teachers on school field trips. At times, they have visitors from retirement centers. 

 

“We had a man visit who was 94 years old and had never ridden on a hayride,” says Karen Bradford, who owns and operates the farm along with her husband, Bobby Bradford. “You should have seen the look on his face. Seeing the joy on everyone’s faces is a great reward for all our hard work.”

 

It is a lot of effort setting up the attraction located on 13810 Combee Lane in Roland, a small community just outside of Little Rock, about 5 miles from Pinnacle State Park which draws between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors per year. 

 

“We are worn out by the time we get it set up,” Karen says. “Once we get it up and going, our favorite part is seeing those kids’ faces light up. A lot of them are seeing farm animals for the very first time. We try to keep it as educational as possible. A lot of pumpkin patches have things that have nothing to do with farming like bounce houses. Every single attraction on the farm is farm-related.”

 

There are beehives on the farm, and the staff talks to the kids about bees and pollinating. If they will listen. A lot of times, the little ones are so excited that they are more interested in experiencing the fun than learning. The children, many of them from the city, are getting exposed to farm life while getting to run around and play. Families are usually there for at least two hours, sometimes longer. 

 

“We have several mazes,” Karen says. “The one that draws the most people is the 1.5-acre sunflower field. It is beautiful for photos. For the small children, there is a hay bale maze and a fence maze. The biggest attraction for the little ones is our corn pit. We put between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds of corn in the pit. It is like a giant sandbox, but it is corn. They love it. After the season is over, we grind it up and feed it to the animals and the wildlife.”

 

The farm is called BoBrook after the Bradfords’ children, Bo and Brook. They both have other jobs off the farm, but help out on the weekends.

 

BoBrook

The hayride takes people around the farm to see the fields, grape vineyard, the orchard and – a particular hit with kids – about 25 funny scarecrow scenes. 

 

“My daughter is pretty good at making the scarecrows,” Karen says. “We get ideas from Pinterest. You can do a lot of fun things with hay bales. We are giving round bale art a whirl this time.”

 

There is also the River Bottom Winery at the farm that is open weekends throughout the year and offers free wine tasting. At the October pumpkin patch events, adults can have a glass of wine while the kids play.

 

“It is a big draw,” Karen notes. 

 

The Bradfords have been operating the pumpkin farm since 2009. Usually, they plant four to five acres of pumpkins, but went down to 1.5 acres this year. It was a challenging season for farmers because of the weather.

 

“The main thing was it was too wet early in the year,” Karen explains. “We couldn’t get the ground prepared. During the heat and drought this summer, we were able to irrigate everything, so that was not really an issue with us. We have a buddy in Lonoke who is having a good season, and we will be getting some pumpkins from him.”

 

Some of the most popular decorative pumpkins are flat, white boer pumpkins, Cinderellas, blue dolls and porcelain dolls, all of which can be stacked. The traditional orange pumpkins for carving are also a hit, and the smaller pumpkins that kids can carry are popular, too.

 

There are quite a few spaces set up for portraits of kids and families. And the farm animals get a lot of attention. In addition to piglets, there are goats and chickens. The Bradfords may bring their baby calf down. “We have a variety of animals for them to see,” Karen says. 

 

The Bradfords didn’t grow up on a farm, but it was Bobby’s dream to farm. They purchased their farm 30 years ago and have slowly evolved from more traditional row-crop agriculture to agritourism, fruit trees and the winery that offers 27 different varieties of wine.

 

“I don’t care what you are growing, it is a roll of the dice,” Karen says. “It is a gamble. You are dependent on so many factors that are out of your control. We grow peaches, apples and pears. It was so hot earlier in the year that we didn’t get good pollination of the fruit. We got only a few peaches this year, enough for us, but not enough to sell. 

 

“This year, the wildlife is tearing up the trees. We have 150 apple trees, and normally begin harvest at the end of September. I guess because of the heat and drought, the wildlife is coming out of the woods to get something to eat. We’ve never had this much trouble. We have tried everything we can think to deter the wildlife. It is mostly racoons and opossums, but deer get their share. We are close to the river. And we have a bayou that goes through our property and a small lake that provides wildlife with plenty to drink.” 

 

In their vineyard, they grow muscadines and grapes, including the Arkansas State Grapes, Cynthiana, that are native to the area.

 

“We try to grow native plants because if plants like it here, they grow better,” she explains. “We make all the wine here. We do all the fermenting and bottling right here on the farm. We bring in juice from all over the world. We don’t grow a lot of the grapes for good traditional wines. They don’t grow well here. The winery is open every weekend with live music on the patio and great food and wine tasting.”

 

Admission to the pumpkin patch is $7 for ages two and up. All activities are included. The patch is open Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in October. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October, hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pumpkins are sold separately.

 

No pets are allowed to enter the pumpkin patch, including dogs. In addition to the pumpkin patch, the farm hosts special events and other celebrations throughout the year.  

 

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