When the University of California system bought Faulkner Farms two years ago, the fate of the popular pumpkin patch was uncertain.
The UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources purchased the land from original owners Lin and Allan Ayers. The Hansen Trust, a $20-million fund left to the university system by the late Santa Paula resident Thelma Hansen, paid for the 27-acre farm at Briggs and Telegraph roads.
But while the trust has transformed the property into an agricultural learning center--featuring an academy that serves as a practice garden for high school students--board members weren't sure whether the pumpkin patch would stay or go.
Now, aspiring jack-o'-lantern artists can rest easy.
In response to pleas from the public, board members have decided to continue selling pumpkins at the farm. The board contracted with Karen and Tom Schott, who manage farmers' markets throughout the county, to run the operation for the next three years.
"When the trust took over, the patch had been going on for 23 years," Karen Schott said. "They were not quite sure how it would fit into the picture of the learning center."
The Schotts planted about seven acres of pumpkins in recent weeks and expect to sell more than a million pounds beginning Oct. 1. More than 4,000 students toured the pumpkin patch in 1998, and Schott expects that number to grow this year.
"This is a learning center," Schott said. "They're learning how pumpkins grow."