Parents and teachers wrote the children’s names on the pumpkins and placed them in a wheelbarrow, souvenirs from what might be their first trip to a farm.
Lexi Bennett, who owns the farm with her husband Jim, said the farm opens for the month of October only to about 3,000 school children on field trips and to the public in the afternoons and on weekends. The farm grows about 6,000 pumpkins per year and gives one to every student who visits, said Jim Bennett.
It’s important, Lexi Bennett said, because many of the school children who come from Georgia, Birmingham, Calhoun and Cleburne counties have never seen a working farm before or seen where their food comes from.
To teach them, the farm has volunteers at different stations explain to the children how a farm produces things like sorghum syrup.
Bennett Farms grows sweet sorghum cane, extracts the juice in a mill and boils it down to create the syrup.
“It’s really a lost art,” said Jim Bennett.
And it’s labor-intensive. The volunteer demonstrated how they would have to grind and grind the cane and skim the surface of the cooking juice. Some of the children were unimpressed.
“I don’t like it,” said one student after licking a sample off a graham cracker.
But even as they were learning, the students were there to have some fun, said Ginger Monroe, a kindergarten teacher.
The farm has added new attractions for the students every year – some educational, some just for fun. The farm started out four years ago with the pumpkin patch, a corn crib, hay rides and a hay-bale maze, Jim Bennett said. Over the years, it has added a cookhouse, a syrup mill, a petting zoo and a slide. This year, he added a pipe swing and a tire crawl for the children.
Madison Gray, 4, was on her second trip to the farm.
“I really like going in there,” Gray said, motioning toward the maze.
But the field trips have also inspired her. She grows flowers at her house, but she thinks she’d like to grow some pumpkins, too.
“I’m gonna try,” she said.
Jim Bennett said the children are what this farm is all about.
“You get to see these kids and their faces,” he said. “That’s what feeds my fire.”
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.