Oct. 3—One year ago, Mallory Robertson, owner and operator of Mal’s Pumpkin Patch in Calhoun, was sitting in a classroom during her freshman year at Murray State University before her time was cut short due to COVID-19.
However, being the fifth generation of the Robertson Farms, LLC, Robertson wanted to do something that hasn’t been done in the family business for some time.
“A long time ago, we did grow pumpkins but we got out of that business,” Robertson said. “I came home and wanted to do something on our farm that was just strictly me. I love my family’s legacy and I wanted other people to experience the lifestyle I’ve experienced. I thought growing pumpkins was a good way to get people out and onto the farm to learn a little bit or spark an interest into the agriculture industry.
Robertson, who was studying agriculture science and systems technology, is now learning the degree requirements with more hands-on experience by running her own business that is based on something that is near and dear to her childhood.
“I remember when I was little, some of the best memories were carving pumpkins or spending time with my family going to pick out pumpkins for fall decorations,” Robertson said. “It’s good to be able to provide the memories that will last a lifetime.”
At first, Robertson said that people weren’t too sure about the idea.
“A lot of my friends thought I was crazy!” Robertson said. “I think some of my family did too but just didn’t want to tell me. I was nervous because, like anything, it was a big investment but last year it turned out great.”
Robertson began the pumpkin patch last spring and was able to wholesale to a lot of businesses in Daviess and McLean counties such as a couple of Marathon gas stations and Camron’s Foodliner in Livermore and Sacramento.
Robertson said the family has been supportive of her endeavor and has been working alongside her every step of the way.
“My dad does help me a lot,” Robertson said. “My whole family helps me a lot. My dad does spray the pumpkins and helps me go out there and decide what we need to apply to the pumpkins. It’s not totally me — there (are) some helping hands into the (business) being successful.”
Robertson already has made some adjustments this season to be more prepared for success.
“We expanded a little bit more this year,” Robertson said. “Last year, I had 2 1/2 acres of pumpkins. This year I have three acres of pumpkins and we grew Indian corn and now we have the mums … offering a variety to anybody who comes out here.”
Despite selling the pumpkins in October, Robertson said that the process starts much earlier.
“We plant the (pumpkin) seeds usually on Father’s Day weekend,” Robertson said. “Usually the first or second week of September is when we start our harvest and we don’t get heavy into our harvest until the end of September or early October because that’s when pumpkins are at their peak and people are really wanting to buy them.”
Robertson’s patch offers a wide selection of pumpkins, ranging from blancos, gourds, ironside, large white, warty goblins, standard jack-o-lanterns, and orange and white tabletop.
Robertson said that business was modest last year but was keen on improving her second time around.
“I did have an abundance (of pumpkins) that I couldn’t get rid of so I had to … auction them off,” Robertson said. “I’m hoping to not do that this year. I try to provide for the people within the region first before I go outwards….”
Robertson has also increased her visibility by selling products at the Owensboro Farmers Market every Saturday and creating her Facebook page to reach a larger audience and network with others.
“Relationships are the key to any successful business,” Robertson said. “The hardest (thing) was getting your name out there. Last year, there were some people that came out to the farm (without) the publicity; it was basically word-of-mouth.”
After creating an online presence, Robertson said that she has at least one person stopping in at the farm and purchasing something every day.
Even with juggling a full-time job at Hopkins County Schools’ central office and resuming her education online, Robertson is keen on making this business her priority.
“I wanted to be my own boss,” Robertson said. “This was a way to start doing that and maybe in the future, we can expand more. I do see that it’s becoming more successful each day. That really keeps me going.”
Robertson is hoping to grow the business even more as time goes on, implementing family activities and having more varieties of products to choose from.
Above all, Robertson wants to do what is fulfilling to her.
“I know that this is what makes me happy,” Robertson said. “Happiness is more important than money to me. You do need money but happiness is key to everything in life.”
Freddie Bourne, [email protected]