One of Delaware County’s most visited fall outdoor adventure stops for families is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season.
Located in Ostrander at 8738 Marysville Road (state Route 36), Leeds Farm is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays beginning the third week in September through the end of October.
In 1994, just after being married, Rob and Christy Leeds purchased the 80-acre farm that was originally platted in 1839.
“It didn’t look like this 25 years ago,” Christy Leeds said. “We started with the barns that were here when we bought the farm. They are now the pig barn and the big barn.”
Leeds said she and her husband started the pumpkin farm by putting just a few pumpkins out and folks would stop to buy them. Today, those few pumpkins have become approximately 400,000 pounds of pumpkins sold annually.
“When they did stop, they would want to go into the barn,” she said. “At the time, we had livestock in the barn which wasn’t in very good shape. It was just the timber frames.”
Leeds said they gradually began to add things for people to do around the farm. Over the years, they’ve added hayrides, feeding farm animals, a John Deere combine slide where kids start in the cab and slide through the hopper and out the back of the farm machine, mountain slides, zip lines, rolling tubes, straw forts, pig races, paintball on the porch, and thousands of pumpkins and gourds growing right on the farm.
“Last year we started making our own kettle corn,” she said. “It’s gone well. We’ve expanded, so now we have a space to get kettle corn out here by all the activities, and we still have our original place on the front porch of the old house.”
Leeds said last year a lot of things were rearranged to make space for new things to do. She said the farm now has two pumpkin jumps, an iron horse corral, and a tractor tire tower.
The iron horses, 55-gallon barrels that have been fabricated to look like horses, is where kids can climb aboard and pretend to ride.
“They’re amazingly fun to just sit on. You’re sitting in a real saddle,” Leeds said. “The pumpkin jump is an in-ground, inflated air pillow that you jump on. It has a little bit of a similarity to a trampoline but it’s different. It’s fun and great exercise, and it’s not as easy as it looks.”
Leeds said there is a big bridge over the pond so people can feed the fish as they walk across to the hayride boarding area on the west side.
“The hayride path loops up through the woods and comes back to where it starts,” she said.
In about the fourth year of owning the farm, Leeds said they began to offer school tours.
“We take them on a hayride to the pumpkin field where they pick a pie pumpkin,” she said. “School tour guests are the only ones that pick pumpkins. We don’t offer picking pumpkins in the field, because it rotates each year and you can’t always get a hayride with lots of people to where the pumpkins are planted. We only keep a little patch somewhere on the path where we can get those school guests to it.”
However, this year, because of the difficult planting season, Leeds said some of the pumpkins normally planted early didn’t get planted this year.
“We predominately focused on our school pumpkins, the pie pumpkins,” she said. “Normally, we’d have 12-20 acres, but the bigger pumpkins didn’t get planted this year because they take a longer growing season and it got too late. We’ve got six or seven acres this year.”
Leeds said it has been a very challenging year for farmers in general with the heavy spring rains and the dry summer.
“We had difficulty like everyone else,” she said. “Pumpkins are only a portion of our enterprise, not our sole enterprise. It was difficult to make hay to feed our livestock. The first cutting of hay should have been in May. It was almost July before we got the first cutting this year. The second cutting was mediocre. It didn’t have enough time to dry, and it didn’t grow. We’re impacted, we’ll likely have to buy some hay this year like a lot of people.”
Leeds said they also grow all the normal crops that other farmers plant each year, not just pumpkins.
For more information about the farm, visit www.LeedsFarm.com.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.