ROCHELLE — Scott and Jeff Seebach estimate they produce about 3,000-5,000 pumpkins each year.
The Seebach family has produced and sold pumpkins in Flagg Center for roughly 40 years. Scott and Jeff said sales have already been in full swing this year and that each year people look to buy their pumpkins earlier and earlier. The pumpkin patch at 5498 S. Center Road sells at least 20 varieties of pumpkins and gourds along with corn stalks and bales of straw.
“To me, it just makes people happy to come out and pick out a pumpkin,” Scott said. “Just to see the people come out and have fun and have a nice family time together out here picking out pumpkins. We have several generations of people that have been out here.”
The Seebachs begin planting around Memorial Day weekend or early June. About two weeks later they start weeding and thinning them out. Pumpkins are overplanted, because it’s unknown which seeds are going to germinate.
Scott said pumpkins are a “finicky” plant and there aren’t a whole lot of herbicides you can spray on them. Weeding takes about two weeks.
“And then you let mother nature do her best,” Scott said. “Around Labor Day we start going out. It keeps getting earlier and earlier, the demand. People just want them earlier, it seems like. We just go out and cut the vine and load them on a trailer and haul them in here and hose them off.”
It takes about a week each year to get the stand set up and filled. Jeff and Scott, who both work full-time jobs as well, hire a “handful” of employees to help with the work.
The brothers try to keep up with what is in demand from customers. When the family started selling, it was just pumpkins.
“It's difficult from year to year to know what people will want,” Jeff said. “A couple years ago we couldn't sell a bail of straw. This year they're flying off the lot.”
Other things have changed with the ways the Seebach family operates in the fall. The pumpkin patch used to be located down the road at their father, Jerry’s, house. Jerry began the tradition years ago. He passed away in 2019 and his sons have carried on the work.
“To me, it's just a thing to do for the community,” Scott said. “It's a family tradition. After our dad passed, a lot of people asked if we're going to continue doing it. I don't see a reason not to. It is a lot of work on top of our normal jobs. But we enjoy it.”
Scott said the pumpkin crop has been good this year and the regular orange variety did “phenomenal.” The specialty varieties did “not so well,” and he guesses that’s due to the hot and dry weather.
Overall, the Seebach family hasn’t changed it’s pumpkin operations “a whole lot.” In recent years they began planting them with a planter rather than by hand.
Scott recalled when people would look to buy pumpkins closer to Halloween. Now he believes it’s just “more of a fall thing.” Customers are seen early in September asking when the stand will be ready.
“It's just like Christmas,” Jeff said. “It feels like that's getting earlier every year with people preparing. People want to get ahead and be done with it. If a neighbor puts a pumpkin out, the next one wants to do it.”
The brothers worked Autumn on Parade in Oregon last weekend and have done that for 15-20 years. They enjoy seeing locals and people from that community each year. They’ve had customers from Chicago come to their Flagg Center location over the years.
“Every year people tell us they come here every year to get them,” Jeff said. “People bring their kids out and the kids just go nuts with it. Those kids will eventually grow up and bring their kids.”
The Seebachs are also known for their sweet corn, which is another tradition they take part in during the summers. When people around town hear their name, pumpkins and sweet corn are what they’re asked about most.
“We've just been doing it and trying to keep the tradition going for the community,” Scott said. “That's the main reason we do it. It's a tradition. And people love it.”