The growing of the Pumpkin Patch

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / October 28, 2000

MONTZ – Early last Sunday morning a 18-wheeler finally completed the last leg of it’s trip from New Mexico to St. John Parish. Just in time forHalloween, some 45,000 pounds of pumpkins had arrived at Timmy Perilloux’s Pumpkin Patch in Montz.

Every year Perilloux plants about 32 acres of his field for October pumpkins. Come Halloween, schools from as far as Baton Rouge and NewOrleans travel down the River Road to take a tractor ride into a real pumpkin field and wander through the vines in search of their pumpkin.

The event, now including about 45 schools and 15 years, began almost on accident. “Candice Roussel found out I had an acre of pumpkins and wantedto bring her Brownie Scout troupe,” said Perilloux. The rest he either soldon Airline Highway in LaPlace or plowed back under into the soil.

The next year the brownies were back, and a few other schools had asked to drop on by. That year they had around five schools, the next year thattripled, the year after it tripled again. “I grew with it as it grew. It waseasy that way,” said Perilloux.

Perilloux had started with a family plot off the river. In 1977, whileworking for GATX in St. Charles as an operator, he bought the land, whichwas his grandfathers, from his family. At 25 years of age, “I thought ‘I’vegot now what do I do with it,” said Perilloux with chuckle.

He started planting different vegetables and sold them on the road side as a hobby. He continued on until the GATX plant shut down. With 26 years atthe plant, Perilloux settled into retirement with company benefits and continued farming.

Perilloux grows all sorts of vegetables. This year he planted 3.5 acres ofwatermelons, some which reached 43 pounds. After rush of the Halloweenpumpkin harvest is over, he’s headed back to the field to help his father bring in turnips and mustard seeds. “I’m supposed to be retired, notsupposed to be doing all this work,” said Perilloux with a laugh.

The Pumpkin Patch is a wind storm of activity during the day. Childrencover the grounds, between waiting around for their ride into the field, scattering to find a pumpkin and bring it back to wash it. They have somuch fun with the washing troughs, it’s almost hard to keep the kids out of the water themselves, said Perilloux.

Four tractors and seven trailers pull the kids and their pumpkins along.

The ride and the pumpkin costs them $3 a piece.

This year, many of the pumpkins bought were from New Mexico. With theextreme drought this past summer, Perilloux had no choice but to by from out of the area. In New Mexico a 600 acre farm grows the pumpkinsPerilloux ordered. This year he had three truckloads, about 135,000 poundsof pumpkins delivered to his patch. Usually Louisiana is rough on pumpkinsbecause of too much rain, this year it was not enough.

Either way, Perilloux continues on, the treat of pleasing the children the main enjoyment of his operation. Some of the kids that visit the Montzfarm have never been in a field, let alone picked their own vegetable. “I dotry to grow them in the field and make it as real a possible,” said Perilloux. A lot of the schools have been with him for more than 10 years.In 1998, Perilloux invited the schools to a vegetable patch. With cabbageheads, about eight to 10 pounds, and cauliflower, 10 inches across, the kids got to head out and pick their favorite vegetable. Though he has notbeen able to do that in the past, Perilloux is looking to continue using a vegetable patch as a field trip for teaching about farming. “I like to makea 15 minute film, one minute for plowing and one for planting and so on,” said Perilloux. When the 15 minutes were up, he could take them directlyout to the field to see in order to give context to the film.

Sunday morning, the last load of pumpkins were unloaded. In a long trainof hands, the pumpkins were tossed on down the line and placed gently into the wage. Once the wagons were filled, the slowly moved through thefield as the pumpkins were unloaded and placed carefully in the vines and around the other pumpkins, lucky enough to grow.

In all it takes about four hours with the guys they had this year. Donutsare served midway through the morning and a traditional pizza and ice cream dinner is planned for early November.

If you would drop by in the morning, Perilloux is usually seen in about four different places at once, helping busses backup, driving tractors, helping kids load up the pumpkins, and washing the pumpkins clean. His wife Lindaruns along side him, making sure the groups are scheduled and selling arts and crafts she makes herself. Shortly after noon the rush slows down andthe farm returns to a quite country field. The last few weeks of Octoberare rushed and hard for Perilloux, but he has no regrets. “I like everythingabout farming,” said Perilloux. There are disappointing moment, like whenthe weather is bad, but he has no desire to give it up. “The kids have funout there. I can’t keep them away,” said Perilloux with a smile.Timmy and Linda live with their two children Rebecca, 11 and Spenser, 6.

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