Ryser's Farm offers specialized patch
If Jerry and Marlene Ryser were a little younger and still owned hundreds of acres of land, they would consider opening a sprawling, dynamic pumpkin patch.
But they don't have the capacity or the energy to do that. So instead, they cater their cozier set-up toward families and schools with young children who don't need expansive bounce houses or elaborate rides to be entertained.
"The big farms do a good job," Jerry said.
Marlene added: "But that's not what we do."
The Ryser's Farm Pumpkin Patch, which is located at 22560 S.W. Stafford Road, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day in October and features ample pumpkins, a play area, a tractor ride, small animals such as chickens and Nigerian dwarf goats, corn, squash, apple cider and more.
Jerry has been growing pumpkins for 30 years and used to own a 500-acre property in West Linn. When he retired, after managing a body shop for a similar amount of time, he and Marlene moved to their current 15-acre property and embarked on a new chapter in their lives.
About 12 years ago, they opened the pumpkin patch. Every year, they begin planting on the first of June, wait for harvest and then transform Jerry's barn into a festive, Halloween-themed entrance point for pumpkin patch-goers. Along with the harvesting and set-up process, Marlene makes picture cards and door-hangers while Jerry constructs barbed wire wreaths.
"When you're retired, if you just sit down and don't do anything, you're going to lose your health and your ability to move. He isn't a big traveler. We like to stay busy and we both have always been active," Marlene said.
Since Rysers' farm first opened for business, the population in areas surrounding the patch have increased and so has their clientele. The Rysers have also established consistent business with local preschools. Preschools such as Bethlehem Christian Academy, Stafford Country Montessori and Marylhurst Preschool have visited or are scheduled to visit the pumpkin patch every weekday throughout October except for one.
"Eight or nine years ago we got some calls about preschools that wanted to come so we started booking preschools and the teachers discovered they don't have to worry about anyone bugging them or rushing them or taking off with the kids because we only do one tour at a time," Marlene said.
During the visits, Jerry teaches the kids about the process of growing pumpkins and corn and about the 20 varieties of pumpkin on the property and shows them a 125-year-old corn sheller.
On the weekends, things get busy. The Rysers hire eight workers plus their grandchildren to run the cash register and drive the tractor ride. But, even though they don't do any advertising and have a limited presence on social media, they're stretched thin at times. One day last year, they had to turn people away at the parking lot.
"At this point we're experiencing some growing pains in trying to decide which way to go. We can't get any bigger because we have limited parking and we aren't going to get any more parking," Marlene said.
They also have a fireplace for attendees to sit down under the hot blaze, sip on apple cider and enjoy themselves — which exacerbates congestion but adds to the overall experience.
"If we did away with those kind of things we would probably move people in and out faster but that would take away from what we want to create. Our vision is to create a warm, family-friendly environment," Marlene said.
Putting on a pumpkin patch can be a laborious task. But, for Marlene and Jerry, seeing kids smile makes it all worth it.
"When you get a 3-year-old who comes out and is thrilled to sit on the garden tractor or to go in a barrel ride, grinning, that's fun for us," Marlene said.