Article by Carly Phillips
Photos by Logan Kirkland
It started as a roadside stand with an honor box and a gift of pumpkin seeds. Today, Dwight and Jean Colson share the fall season and their home, Pine Meadows Farm and add on, Country Pumpkins, with thousands of lively people every year.
The Colsons bought the farm in Caledonia, Mississippi in 1975 after a tornado wrecked their place in Kentucky. They decided to try their luck with planting, growing and harvesting pumpkins in 2000 after Dwight’s brother gave him some leftover seeds.
Jean was teaching school and Dwight was farming, but he talked her into planting 3 acres on a part of their land they call the “south farm” about 3 miles from their house.
“He just wanted to experiment with a few acres of pumpkins to see if there was an interest within the community for a pumpkin patch in the area,” Jean said.
They decided to put up one tent and left a box for people to stuff money in for their pumpkins. They trusted the locals and would count their earnings after work. Even though the patch has grown tremendously and need for the box has diminished, it can still be found out there today. It sits under one of the tents like a reminder for how far the Colsons have come with their patch.
“At the end of that first year we were absolutely shocked at how many pumpkins were sold out there,” Jean said. “Dwight came in and out on the tractor from the fields and would look across to our little tent and see a lot of children that came with their moms to pick out pumpkins, so he invested in 6 little John Deere tractors that the kids could ride and they enjoyed it.”
The next tent they put up housed boxes of corn that the Colsons shelled themselves for the kids to play in.
“Eventually, we got the idea that we would just give the kids an opportunity to come to the farm. They don’t understand how things grow and what a farm is really like, so we said we can make a playground and let the kids gets a hands-on experience with the crops that we grow,” Jean said.
There is no general admission fee to get on the farm. It is set up so that the children never get bored or impatient while waiting for a turn. There is jack-o-lantern ring toss. There are rope swings the Colsons created out of telephone poles and car axles. There is a station to build scarecrows. There is a slide constructed from an old cotton picker that barely missed the scrap yard. There is a spot for people to see how far they can chunk gourds. There is even a corn maze and a place where the kids can play around in the cotton they grow on site.
“I don’t like for children to have to stand in line and wait. I want everyone to be doing something. They can either be jumping in the cotton, or running down the tunnels, sliding down the slide, riding the barrel train or going on the hay ride,” Jean said.
Country Pumpkins is a place for all ages. It has a history of friendly bonfires, worship services, birthday parties, class field trips and more. Aside from growing pumpkins, the Colsons also have a 200-acre pine tree plantation.
They decided to build a deck underneath the pines so people without any type of reservation can find shade on warm autumn days.
“They can sit up here and see the whole playground and spend the day watching the kids. They pack a picnic lunch if they want to bring one and sit on the deck. Or we do hamburgers and hotdogs in the concession and we sell funnel cakes and caramel corn,” Jean said.
They farm 7 different crops at Pine Meadows, including eighty-five different varieties of pumpkins.
There is black futsu squash, Japanese squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and winter squash up for grabs to name some. There are green gourds, apple gourds, and swan gourds too. They also sell stalks of cotton, wheat, straw bales, and corn stalks for fall decoration use.
“Dwight and I like to share the farm and the harvest and give people a place to go,” Jean said. “Everybody likes to get out in the open and enjoy the weather. It’s peaceful. I didn’t use to enjoy fall as much as I enjoy it now. It has become my favorite season.”