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The Scarlet & Black

Uncle Bill’s Farm is a fall wonderland

Contributed Photo

By Keli Vitaioli

I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and excitement during my trip to Uncle Bill’s Farm in Grinnell this past week. The farm is open for prime pumpkin picking season Sept. 14 through Oct. 30 and offers a return to those classic Midwestern fall afternoons from childhood spent gobbling down candy apples and begging my mom for the biggest pumpkin my arms could lift.

“Uncle” Bill Owen purchased the farm five years ago and has added many attractions to take the experience to a new level. Beyond the classic corn maze, tractor ride and apple cider donuts, Owen’s farm offers a corn pool where you can make a corn-kernel-angel, a goat feeding area featuring a Golden Goat Bridge, giant jumping pillows for adults and children alike and even a peacock. The farm caters well beyond just the Grinnell area, marketing itself as a perfect halfway point between Iowa City and Des Moines.

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

“We just had a couple of sisters that started off in Chicago, and they were headed to the zoo in Omaha, and they needed a place halfway in-between,” Owen said. “That happens quite a bit, somebody east and somebody west — they choose us as a spot to meet their families.”

I began my trip with fellow S&B staff member Megan Tcheng ’19 with a greeting from the three resident cats, all basking in the fall air in the barn market area. After a quick rundown from Heidi More, Owen’s partner in life and farm-running, on the remaining tractor departure times for the day, we were released, candy apple in hand, onto the farm.

The farm goes all out for pumpkin season, featuring an abundance of hay bales and face-in-hole options from smiling jack-o-lanterns to spooky cats. Our first stop was to feed the Facebook-famous goats — check them and their overalls out on Uncle Bill’s Farm’s Facebook page. Buddy, Sandy, Pipi and Sookie all come to Uncle Bill’s Farm from the herd of Daryl Morrison. Each year, Owen chooses goats for the farm before the season and gets them certified by the Health Department and the Department of Agriculture. All four goats are currently pregnant, and Owen is anxiously awaiting their kids — pun intended.

Next was the chicken coop with a variety of breeds, including the beloved fluffy Silkie chicken. There were a pair of chickens Owen refers to as “rebels” that evaded the coop enough that they were free to roam the farm throughout the day and be chased by the stray child that crossed their path.

The six-acre corn maze was next. Tcheng and I assumed that the 30 minutes before the tractor ride was more than enough time to tackle this maze as we were no rookies, but we definitely ended up cutting it close. The corn stretched well above our heads and took me back to being a kid racing through the maze with no concern for getting to the end. After 20 minutes, Tcheng and I resorted to the age-old right-hand-to-wall trick my mom had taught me many a fall ago — it worked like a charm.

We emerged from the corn maze just as the sun was setting, with nine minutes to spare before the final tractor ride left for the day. Uncle Bill takes the tractor out every hour, on the hour, around the entire farm, stopping at the corn maze over the hill and the ten acres of pumpkins. The view of the surrounding pumpkins with the donkey and mini pony grazing in the distance was idyllic. Tcheng and I discussed with our nine-year-old tractor companions the coolest jack-o-lantern possibilities, deciding on a snowman made of not one, but three pumpkins.

The tractor ride was the perfect end to our day as we both picked perfect dorm-sized two-pound pumpkins. All together the whole trip cost us just 18 dollars, which was incredible for all of the attractions we were offered. I was reminded of similar trips back home that would’ve come out to 50 dollars plus. For Owen, the best part is the joy the children come away with.

“I just love the farm. It’s my home, so I get to decorate my home,” Owen said. “When the kids come out, and they enjoy themselves, and their parents are running around saying, ‘oh look at that, oh look at that,’ it’s really neat because they’re admiring something that I did. It makes me proud.”

The farm is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is seven dollars on weekdays and 10 dollars on weekends. Outside of pumpkin season, the farm is available by request for events such as weddings or corporate outings.

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