Each fall at the far southern edge of Yuba County in Wheatland is a destination not to be missed: Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm.
This family-run seasonal attraction farm offers everything: train rides, a corn maze, scarecrows, a petting zoo, homemade pies and of course, pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins.
Bishop’s grows 10 varieties of pumpkins, the biggest being “The Prizewinner,” growing to weights of 200 pounds. Owner Wayne Bishop says that even though the heat in this area keeps the pumpkins from getting really big like on the East Coast “plenty of fertilizer and timely watering helps.”
From its opening weekend on September 23 to its closing day October 31, 125,000 visitors come to enjoy the fall festivities with their friends and families. On the first weekend about 4,000 to 5,000 visitors come to investigate what’s new. Some come for the annual charity 5K fun run/walk. This year the American Red Cross was the beneficiary. One hundred five participants followed a route through the walnut orchards and pumpkin fields enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of farm life.
At its peak weekend about 10 days before Halloween, 20,000 visitors come out for the food and fun and to choose their pumpkins. The weekends at Bishop’s offer a variety of food selections like chicken dinners, turkey legs, corndogs, and hamburgers. An array of entertainment is offered as well—bands, a yodeler, cloggers, pig races, and Mother Goose only to name a few. Parking is $8 on the weekends and free on weekdays.
Bill and Sandy Bishop started offering pumpkins for sale in 1973 allotting one acre from their farm for pumpkins. Sandy envisioned a place where school children could come see a working farm and pick a pumpkin right off the vine. Each year interest from the children and their families grew and grew and so did the acres dedicated to pumpkins. The Bishops listened and accommodated that growth by offering food, hayrides and pony rides. In 1990 Wayne and Bruce Bishop, Bill and Sandy’s sons, built a railroad now known as the BPF Railway.
Since 1995 Wayne and his wife Ann have partnered with Bill and Sandy. In 2004 Bill retired and turned over the farm to Wayne. In regards to the bake shop, Sandy’s realm, she says she has a “hard time getting out of it. It’s my passion.” This year they plan to bake 8 to 10,000 pies, and it will be the first time they have had three bake shifts in order to keep up with demand.
Bishop’s employs 220 people: 80 to 100 high school students, a handful of college students and the rest 19-75 year olds. About 50 are full-time.
When asked what she loved about Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm, Sandy thoughtfully said, “To still see families coming and having a good time. It’s the people.” She is now seeing the second generation of visitors.
After the Bishops spend August and September in a frenzy to get the farm ready, they spend October entertaining and baking and make the final payroll November 1. Then everyone collapses with exhaustion for about a week. Sandy and Bill go for a yearly get-away to the ocean to relax and reenergize.
They need to get ready for the Holiday baking season. Bishop’s takes Thanksgiving and Christmas orders of anything on their bake menu plus pecan and bumbleberry pies
If you want to know more about Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm, visit their website at www.webpumpkins.com