Cinderella, Full Moon, Cotton Candy, Crystal Star, and the Red Warty Thing. Are these keywords from an ancient fairy tale? Hardly. They are actually just a few of the varieties of pumpkins grown right here in Western Kentucky in Melber at the Pumpkin Barn.
“People love the different varieties,” says David Meeks, owner of the Pumpkin Barn. “We get asked all the time which ones you can eat. As far as I know, all of them! The flesh inside each kind is different. Some are sweeter, some are milder.”
The Pumpkin Barn boasts about 30 different varieties of pumpkins and gourds each year. “He spends all winter on the couch going through seed catalogs,” laughs Donna, David’s wife. “The companies are always coming up with new ones, and he spends a lot of time deciding what to plant and what kind of crop he wants for that year.”
David and Donna never imagined that the Pumpkin Barn would become one of our area’s favorite fall hot-spots. David, a WKCTCS retiree, farmed tobacco on the same ground for many years. “You never know where life will bring you,” says Donna. “We spent so much time in this barn working in tobacco, and when we stopped, we said, ‘We’ll never work in here again!’ Now it has been revived as a pumpkin business.”
It started with a small crop of pumpkins. David gave them away to family and friends. He played the pumpkin fairy and left them on neighbors’ doorsteps. “All the kids around here started calling me the pumpkin man. Everywhere I went, I had one to give away.”
Year after year, David grew the pumpkin farm until he had about 4 acres planted. “I opened the old tobacco barn in order to bring this to the public. I invest about $700 into seeds each year, and they are all planted by hand. I poke a hole, drop a seed, cover it up, and move on down the line. We even rent beehives to ensure pollination. It’s a busy business. It goes from sunup to sundown!”
David has branched out into gourds as well. “I grow all sorts of gourds and built a gourd arbor. The gourds are incredibly popular, especially for those who use them for arts. You can make birdhouses out of them. My daughter makes witches and ghosts for the Halloween season. You can do a lot with them. One gourd artist drove 220 miles to get a truckload. I dry them here and have all sizes. We’ve even been experimenting with using plastic molds to create faces in some of them as they grow.”
For the Meeks, the Pumpkin Barn isn’t just a business. Just like when David delivered pumpkins to neighbors’ front porches, he sees it as a way to bring fun to the community each fall. “We love meeting the people who come out here. We love to talk and see the kids as they look over all the pumpkins and pick their favorite. We keep the prices low so everyone can get what they want. We want to make sure that anyone who wants a pumpkin can get one. It is just fun for us.”
David and Donna even open the farm for school field trips. “Just take a look at this,” says David as be points to a calendar hanging on the aged barn wood. “October is full of school groups. It’s busy, but it’s fun. We take them on a ride behind the tractor down to the fields so they can see where the pumpkins are grown. Then we come back to the barn and make sure they all get to go home with a pumpkin. It’s an amazing thing. Some of the kids have never done anything like this.”
The Pumpkin Barn is located at 2105 Owens Chapel Road in Melber. The phone number is 270-705-3231.