A wood-framed sign, backed by hay bales, pronounces “Hackman’s Farm Fresh Produce.” It introduces visitors to the Hackman’s front yard: potted plants, hay bales, wagons filled with gourds and squash — and pumpkins. They dominate the landscape, hundreds of them in every imaginable size.
Welcome to pumpkin-picking season.
“I get a kick out of the families that come. And the children get all excited,” said farmer Jo Hackman about visitors on their annual quest. Sometimes, she said, picking out the right pumpkin takes kids longer than selecting a Christmas tree.
“It may not be the most perfect pumpkin, but they have their own ideas about it,” Hackman said.
Jo and her husband, Norlan, grow and supply all of the pumpkins for the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival, which takes place Saturday and continues Oct. 15. The festival began in 1991 and attracted nearly 40,000 people last year, said Ganelle Cunningham, chairwoman of the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival Committee.
The Hackmans own the farm, which began as a hobby, selling vegetables at farmers markets. The farm has now grown to more than 100 acres located in various spots across the Hartsburg area.
“I guess it just got to be a habit,” said Norlan Hackman.
Despite the size, the Hackmans’ produce farm has a small, intimate feel. It’s not unusual to drive up and see Jo Hackman sitting on the porch in her green rocking chair, chatting with longtime friends. If she is out at the fields, and folks want to buy produce while she’s gone, Jo leaves a bucket out. “We kind of go on the honor system around here,” she said.
Jo gives individual attention to each person who comes to the farm. Often, they stay to chat long after the produce has been picked out and packed away.
Her quiet and friendly demeanor has inspired loyal customers, such as Ashland resident Lonna Trammell, who came with her two kids to choose pumpkins.
“We’ve known Jo all our lives,” Trammell said. “This is where we always buy our pumpkins.”