Darin Leach, whose byline you see each month on feature articles he writes in Wallaces Farmer magazine, grew up on a farm in Muscatine County. He now lives in the Des Moines area with his wife and two young daughters. But he tries to get back there to southeast Iowa to help his parents on the farm when he can. Last week he helped with this fall's harvest. It's a little different kind of harvest than on most Iowa farms. This family harvests not only corn and soybeans but pumpkins, too.
"This is an especially fun time of the year to take our two young daughters back to visit grandma and grandpa, Carolyn and Richard Leach, on the farm," says Darin.
This fall marks the eighth year Richard and Carolyn have opened their farm near Muscatine to preschool and lower elementary school age children for field trips during October. A total of 26 field trips are scheduled this month which will give more than 600 children an opportunity to learn about farming. Field trips include a hayrack ride, a walk through a corn path, a hay maze, pedal tractors and organized games.
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Groups this year are coming from Muscatine, says Darin, along with neighboring communities in the southeast Iowa area, including a community in Illinois.
A retired teacher, Carolyn enjoys organizing the field trips and hosting children
Darin says his mother, Carolyn, retired in 2006. She taught elementary school and then was a principal in the Muscatine Community School District. By hosting childcare centers and school groups, she enjoys the opportunity to continue having an impact in the children's lives and providing an organized and educational field trip experience for teachers and parents.
While on the farm, children get a hayrack ride and have organized playtime in the yard, which is decorated with pumpkins, gourds and the small hay maze. Reading to the children is incorporated into every field trip for children Carolyn hosts at her family's farm.
During the weekends in October the entire Leach family is extremely busy selling flowers, pumpkins and other fall decorations at their Red Barn Pumpkin Farm. The pumpkin farm is geared for children five years of age or younger and there is no cost to come and play or take your fall pictures.
More than just preschoolers, a wide variety of groups come and enjoy the farm
The Red Barn Pumpkin Farm provides field trip experiences for more than just preschools and lower elementary schools. "On a recent Friday a senior adult day care organization from Davenport came," says Darin. "It was a group of 15 women. My mom said they had a very good time. The women really enjoyed the hayrack ride and the sling shot. The sling shot is one of the games we have. It allows you to shoot corncobs at some large wooden cows about 20 feet away."
He adds, "Tonight a 4-H group is coming over to have their meeting and will take a hayrack ride. So yes, a wide variety of groups do come and enjoy the farm."
More information is available at the Red Barn Pumpkin Farm website.