Pigeon Roost Farm, Hebron
Animals and lots and lots of kid-focused activities make the 20-acre Great Pumpkin Fun Center at Ralph and Janice Jutte’s family farm a must-visit spot this time of year.
Kids leap off red and yellow sliding boards at the bottom of a small hill, inertia carrying their little bodies forward. With burlap rugs in hand, they use the momentum from their descent to sprint back up the grassy knoll, ready to go again.
The slides are one of the first things visitors encounter at Pigeon Roost Farm’s Great Pumpkin Fun Center, but they’re just one of many activities that await guests young and old at this 20-acre destination in Licking County.
There’s also a menagerie of barnyard animals, including gobbling turkeys that elicit shrill squeals from a little girl as she peers into their cage. Lambs and goats poke their heads in between the slats in a metal fence, and small corrals are filled with black-and-white, long-eared rabbits and Mother Goose-esque gray geese.
But the animals are only part of the show. Kids can play games, make their way through spooky straw tunnels or be buried in a sandbox filled with corn. Nearby, parents and kids alike try to squeeze into giant black plastic tubes in order to roll them through the fields. Then there’s the corn maze and a hayride where guests can learn the history of the farm that dates back to the 1800s. This playful chaos is exactly the sort of wholesome fun owner Ralph Jutte hoped for when he and his wife, Janice, opened their farm to guests in 2003.
“We try to keep it more of a farm atmosphere, with a lot of the animals and corn mazes — things more common and related to a farm, as opposed to a carnival atmosphere,” Jutte says.
The 80-acre working farm has been in the family since 1980. How it ended up here, hosting visitors every autumn, all started with melons. To save money for college, the Juttes’ three children ran a roadside stand on the honor system: They’d set out a wagonload of melons with a cash box while they were at school.
When the last of the kids left for college, Jutte began growing pumpkins and was soon hosting school field trips. Along the way, he realized there was a desire to introduce kids to farm life.
“A lot of families have parents or grandparents who grew up with some connection to a farm,” says Jutte, adding that younger generations have become removed from farm life. “When [the parents] were younger, maybe they visited a farm or lived near a farm. Now they are looking to share that experience.”
Pigeon Roost Farm hosts families every September and October. There are two parts to the experience: the Great Pumpkin Fun Center, which includes games and activities with an entry fee, and the Pumpkin Fest, a farm stand with autumn decorations and fall produce such as carving pumpkins and squash.
“We’ve got people coming now who used to work for me who are bringing their children,” Jutte says. “We try to make it a fun family activity, and I think it’s working.” Fun center $7, kids under 2 free; open Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m. through Oct. 31; 4413 National Rd. SW, Hebron 43025, 740/928-4925, pigeonroostfarm.com