Windmill Acres, in rural Cambridge, now open for seasonal fun

Debbie Griffin
Isanti County News

Darwin and Lora Thompson own and operate the Windmill Acres Pumpkin Patch, which is open to visitors through Oct. 31.

Dairy farmers Darwin and Lora Thompson own the Windmill Acres Pumpkin Patch, greeting people from this hut. Photos by Debbie Griffin

Dairy farmers Darwin and Lora Thompson own the Windmill Acres Pumpkin Patch, greeting people from this hut. Photos by Debbie Griffin

Lora Thompson said they celebrate not Halloween but fall, harvest, country life and local produce.

Pumpkins abound in and out of the patch, and guests can enjoy plenty of open outdoor space and fun activities. Seasonal decorations such as hay bales, friendly scarecrows and flowers dress up the landscape.

Visitors can choose from pre-picked pumpkins or venture into the patch to find one. All pickers are advised of the proper way to handle a pumpkin — not by the stem, since that can break off.

“The value lies in the whole pumpkin,” Lora Thompson said.

She said the pumpkin yield at Windmill Acres varies annually and depends heavily upon the year’s weather. There may be a few hundred pumpkins one year and many hundred the next. The farmers note that some seasons, they plant few but yield many and vice versa.

Thompson said the biggest pumpkin the patch has produced weighed 49 pounds.

A 5-acre corn maze beckons the adventurous guests, who can get a diagram to help them navigate.

As several generations enjoyed the pumpkin patch’s corn pit – grandma, one of her daughters, her daughter’s daughters and their cousins – one family member “planted” baby Ellie Hill upright in the corn beside her cousin, Brittany Hansen.

As several generations enjoyed the pumpkin patch’s corn pit – grandma, one of her daughters, her daughter’s daughters and their cousins – one family member “planted” baby Ellie Hill upright in the corn beside her cousin, Brittany Hansen.

People don’t usually get lost for long, but it helps when they stick to the corn-maze protocol: Bring a flashlight, get a maze map and stay on the path. Thompson said crashing through the stalks not only gets people lost but also damages the corn.

When weather permits, visitors relax around the fire pit in the evenings. Thompson said the pace at the farm slows a little, and sometimes groups of young people come to “have time together around the fire” or take on the corn maze at twilight. The owners see many happy faces as people take photos at the wooden cutouts and kids take rides in a little red wagon.

Anyone can wade right into the Windmill Acres corn pit, where mostly small and some big kids get in to scoop, roll or play in it, and sometimes, try to bury each other. A hay-mountain slide invites kids to climb up hay bales and whoosh back down in a tube slide.

The owners enjoy educating visitors and said many of them ask questions about the farm’s machinery and processes. Guests can wander around at their leisure, but Thompson said the business offers structured and educational field-trip type visits. Those might include learning with a craft, naming the parts of a pumpkin or enjoying a planned tour of the farm, she said.

Pumpkin-patch guests can select a gourd from the patch or buy one that has already been picked.

Pumpkin-patch guests can select a gourd from the patch or buy one that has already been picked.

Chickens, pigs, sheep, a calf and two friendly donkeys act as pumpkin-patch ambassadors and give visitors a chance to see and learn about farm animals.

The Thompsons, former longtime dairy farmers, opened the patch five years ago and celebrated its anniversary earlier this fall with a tractor show featuring vintage models. As they ease out of farming and into the pumpkin-patch business, they’re having fun and learning about a different aspect of agriculture.

“It is satisfying to express creatively some things that happen on the farm and in the country,” Lora Thompson said.

The Thompsons enjoy seeing people having a chance to relax. They say it’s fun to host multiple generations and watch them have fun together, as well as show the equipment and answer questions about farm operations.

The Windmill Acres Pumpkin Patch, 34365 Hupp St. NE, Cambridge, is open 1-6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. General admission for guests older than 3 years costs $7. Corn maze admission costs $8, or visitors can buy a combination pass for $12.

A Five-Acre Twilight Corn Maze will be open from 7-10:30 p.m. on Oct. 18-19, and Oct. 25-26. The cost is $10 and includes the corn maze, hayride and fire pit. Children under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult older than 21.

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